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Conservation benefit: Creation of an 87-acre no-take freshwater wetland forest in perpetuity

Community benefit: Visitors’ center, boardwalk, and waterway rehabilitation

Date Approved: 01.2011

Forest

This project protects forest, preventing the release of greenhouse gases and reducing erosion that damages coastal and ocean ecosystems.

Yela Valley contains the largest stand of majestic “Ka” trees (Terminalia carolinensis) left in the world. The freshwater forested wetland in the Yela Valley is the heart of an unusually pristine tropical watershed extending from the ridgetop to the reef.

In 2006, the traditional landowners formed a community-based organization called YELA (Yela Environment Landowners Authority) to manage this privately owned property as a protected area in Kosrae. The most interesting species for conservation in the area is the Ka tree. This remarkably intact forest also provides habitat for the endangered Micronesian pigeon and Mariana fruit bat.

To promote ecotourism in the area, Seacology is funding construction of a visitors’ center and a 265-foot boardwalk across the wetland, and clearing of key waterways to allow impact-free access to the forest area by boat. In exchange, the community will establish a 87-acre area as a no-take reserve in perpetuity.

Project Updates

June 2013

This project is now completed. In the last phase of the project, a recreational center with cooking amenities was completed. The recreation center is complete and already in used by visitors. In addition to the visitor center a 15x18ft foundation was built to provide more space and also used as a docking area for boats. The main hut (visitor center) and toilet room are now complete. Water pipes for a toilet room have already been installed and a rainwater catchment built beside it is already in use. The boardwalk has been completed and is in service already. The boardwalk crosses the mangrove channel at one section, which is elevated, allowing boat to pass easily underneath during high tide. Six community groups cleared the waterway of debris and fallen trees. All interpretative signs are completed.

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June 2012

In the second phase of the project, a recreational center with cooking amenities has been completed. The recreation center is already in used by visitors. In addition to the visitor center, a 15 by 18 foot foundation was built to provide more space, and is also being used as a docking area for boats. The visitor center and toilet room are now in the final phase. Water pipes for the toilet room have already been installed and a rainwater catchment built beside it is already in use. The boardwalk has been completed and is in service already. The boardwalk crosses the mangrove channel at one section, which is elevated, allowing boats to pass easily underneath during high tide. Six community groups have cleared the waterway of debris and fallen trees already, and it is being monitored on a monthly basis to prevent any blockage. YELA will continue to engage the local community in assisting in this activity and others. The old trail that connects the boardwalk to the Ka forest has been cleared by two community groups and has been monitored every month. Interpretative signs are almost completed. Most of these signs have been developed, but a few of the remaining signs are still in the design stage and are yet to be completed and installed. The remaining activities should be completed by end of June 2012.

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November 2011

The first phase of construction of the Yela visitor center and boardwalk has been completed. The visitor center is a 20x24ft local house built with local materials that is already in service, even though not entirely completed. The windows are the only components that remain to be fixed. The focus now is on the construction of a recreational center with cooking amenities and renovation of the toilet rooms as essential annexes of the visitor center. The 265ft-long boardwalk is now completed which crosses over the swamp to reach solid ground on the other side heading up the trail to the Yela forest. It just needs minor touch-up works with the painting and guide indicators. The interpretative signs are in the designing stage now and will be displayed soon. The waterway rehabilitation work on the Yela River is still in progress and will continue to engage the local communities in the process. There were already three community groups participated in this activity to remove fallen trees in the river, and debris around the river banks. There is still more work to be done to extract huge roots and trees from the river so boats and canoes can easily navigate their way up the river to the Yela ka forest. However, with high tide and water marks the small fiberglass boats can still navigate its course up the river today. The conservation work is still in progress and is making huge impact to the overall endeavor to protect Yela as a forest reserve in Kosrae.

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June 2011

The project contracts were signed and funds were transferred in March 2011.

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Full or partial funding for this project provided by Seacology Scandinavia.

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