Willy Kostka and Betty Sigrah of the Micronesia Conservation Trust (MCT), and Ricky Carl of The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) Micronesia Program, met with the 10 heirs of Alik Kufus to hand over $21,000 ($2,100 per family) to the owners of the Yela Ka Forest Reserve in Kosrae, Federated States of Micronesia.
This is an event that takes place every April with funds coming from the earnings of the Yela Conservation Easement Endowment Fund, managed by MCT. The endowment, which was established to support this conservation easement agreement with funds from a US Forest Service Forest Legacy Grant and with matching funds from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, has a current total value of approximately $520,000.
As a Micronesia Challenge site for the FSM, the Yela Ka Forest in Kosrae is a special place that holds the world’s last remaining stand of the Ka tree (a species of Terminalia found only in Pohnpei and Kosrae). Because this forest area is privately owned and serves as a critical habitat/nursery for the animals in the area, Yela qualified under the Forest Legacy Program. Conservation easements are comprehensive plans that involve different components and partners.
While the families have relinquished some of their development rights (such as the right to road building, large infrastructure development, tree cutting and harvesting) to Kosrae State, which now retains the lease on the property, the families continue to own the property and can still enter and carry out sustainable and cultural activities such as ecotourism, hunting, gathering of medicinal plants within the area. According to the Executive Director of the Yela Landowners Authority, Dr. Tholman Alik, Yela receives about 25 visitors per month and charges an entry fee of $20 to visitors and $10 to locals. These funds, along with other grants from FSM Congress and international donors, are used to pay for the three permanent staff of Yela who manage the area on a regular basis and carry out activities, such as feral pig and other invasive species control and eradication. They also serve as guides for the tours to Yela.
This year’s payment was the fourth disbursement to the families since this first conservation easement in Micronesia went into effect with the signing of an agreement between the Kosrae State Government represented by the Kosrae Island Resource Management Authority (KIRMA), US Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the Micronesia Conservation Trust, Kosrae Conservation and Safety Organization and the Yela Landowners Authority.
Read more about this in the May 12, 2017 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.