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Interior announces $5M to protect coral reefs and natural resources; combat invasive species in island areas

WASHINGTON (Press Release) — U.S. Interior Assistant Secretary, Insular and International Affairs, Doug Domenech was in the Republic of Palau last week to co-chair the 42nd annual U.S. Coral Reef Task Force meeting where he announced $5,192,241 in fiscal year 2020 funding to protect coral reefs and natural resources, and combat invasive species, including the Brown Tree snake.

The funding was provided through the Office of Insular Affairs for a variety of projects intended to benefit American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau.

Douglas Domenech

“It was an honor to be in Palau for the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force meeting with my co-chair Rear Adm. Tim Gallaudet, deputy director of NOAA, where we had the opportunity to experience and enjoy Palau’s incredible beauty, both on land and sea,” said Assistant Secretary Domenech. “The funding provided will help to protect important coral and natural resources and combat invasive species that are threatening the stunning, but fragile eco-systems found across the U.S. territories and in the freely associated states. We are grateful to the President, the Interior secretary, and the Congress for providing these funds.”

“This funding is a great example of the Department of the Interior’s continuing efforts to protect our treasured natural resources, said U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. “These funds will help combat the continuing threat of invasive species, including the insidious spread of the Brown Tree Snake, and address the damage being done to the world’s most diverse and complex ecosystems, coral reefs.”

The CNMI Department of Lands and Natural Resources will receive $239,898 to conserve and protect two endangered, endemic trees, the Serianthes nelsonii and the Osmoxylon mariannense, and also to protect the endangered endemic herb, Nesogenes rotensis. The most prominent threats to these plant species are invasive deer and mealybugs. The project proposes to (1) propagate and out plant the three endangered plants, (2) mitigate pests, (3) provide fencing for protection of new plantings, and (4) control invasive deer.

For its part, the CNMI Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality will receive $124,435 to fund 1) participation and engagement in regional Coral Reef Initiative meetings such as the Coral Reef Task Force, 2) expansion of a coral nursery to accommodate 500 plus coral fragments for eventual out-planting and coral reef restoration, 3) development of a plan to mitigate recent outbreaks of the Crown of Thorns Sea-Star in Rota and Tinian.

The Coral Reef Initiative and Natural Resources program supports efforts to protect the health of all natural resources in the U.S. insular areas for the long-term economic and social benefit to their island populations.

For more information on funding assistance available through the Office of Insular Affairs, visit the OIA website at