A few weeks ago I guess I offered to take some students on a hike to the Laulau Revegetation Site. It has been a while since I've brought a group of students up there, but it is something that I've done at least a dozen times, both as the Public Involvement Coordinator with RC&D and the Executive Director of MINA.
The Laulau Revegetation Project is one of my favorite places on Saipan and a place where I've spent a lot of time working. In 2006 we planted over 800 saplings and 250 cuttings and broadcast over 5000 seeds at the site. The area is being revegetated because it keeps burning. Luckily, the area hasn't burned since the big burning right after I got here in 2006.
The lesson I try to impart when I do these field trips is the slogan we came up with for my RC&D project three years ago, "What we do on the land can affect our marine environment."
I had a bit of a language barrier with this group, but I usually get the kids up on the mountain and then point out how different land use practices affect the ocean. From the reveg site you can see villages, a golf course, farms, beaches, a dive site, roads, and forest and I ask the students how they think each of these affects the ocean. What happens when an area burns? What happens with excess fertilizer? We usually have a very lively discussion.
This time around I brought some coconut trees to see how easy or difficult it would be to plant them. Coconuts are not part of the NRCS planting plan, but for a few years I've wanted to try planting them up there.
My idea goes back to a revegetation site I visited in Costa Rica in 2002. My journal from the trip is in storage and I wish I had it now to look at my notes, but basically they were having a hard time getting natives to grow for a number of reasons, one of them being competition from African grass. So they decided to plant something that they knew would at least grow. If they could get something to grow and shade out the grass, then it might make it easier for the natives to recolonize.
Ironwood grows really well up there, but the Division of Fish & Wildlife doesn't want us to use it. So how about coconuts? They're native enough. They're hardy. They grow practically anywhere, including on the beach which is nutrient poor and salty. So how about in our revegetation project?
It can't hurt to try, so along with my usual lesson, I had each kid bring along a coconut, which they planted at the reveg site.
Coconuts are really easy to find on Saipan. They are literally everywhere. They are also really easy to get into the reveg site now that the Saipan Mayor's Office has bulldozed an illegal road into the area.
This road, by the way, has completely negated the next 10 years of reveg work, but you can't let things like that get you down.
Thanks, Mayor Tudela! You contributed to the destruction of our coral reefs!
Some of the students were more enthusiastic than the others. I think certain kids had never been hiking. I don't think some of them liked being outdoors period.
But then every group of students has a few kids like that. Like I always say, sword grass cuts, bee stings, and sunburns build character.
Edz, Oreo, and Snow White tagged along. Edz and Oreo have planted trees with me before, but this was Snow White's first time.