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By Ashley Hudson

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (September 1, 1998 - Saipan Tribune)--- Representatives from various CNMI environmental agencies are planning to leave this weekend on an exploration trip to five Northern Islands to check into the possibilities of developing the land and re-establishing its community.

The representatives will do preliminary soil surveys on the islands, take vegetation samples and assess the islands for future development possibilities.

"Eventually the Mayor of the Northern Islands wants to re-populate the Northern Islands. Work will be done to determine where the soil is best for farming, recreational development, grazing land and other things," said Dick Howard, district conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Services.

The islands of Pagan, Alamagan, Agrigan, Sarigan, and Anatahan will be visited by the representatives, who include officials from the Department of Lands and Natural Resources, the Natural Resources Conservation Services, Northern Marianas College, the Northern Marianas Mayors Office, and the University of Guam.

In March of next year, a more thorough assessment will be done for five months on the five islands.

One month will be spent on each island starting in March, mapping out what types of soil are available and determining other uses for the land.

The Challenger, the Emergency Management Office's rescue boat, is expected to take the researchers up to the Northern Islands. Plans to survey the Northern Islands have been delayed in the past due to problems with the Challenger.

"Time is of the essence. We need to take this trip now because as it gets further on into the year the weather will not be as good," said Howard.

The preliminary survey on the Northern Islands, which will begin this Saturday, will take about a week.

During the week, soil scientists, plant pathologists, and biologists will work to collect preparatory data on the islands' soil and topography. Other officials will also collect their own assessments of land uses.

"If there is going to be ecotourism in the Northern Islands, there needs to be an inventory of what is up there," said Ken Kramer, an official from the Natural Resources and Conservation Services, in a recent interview.

For additional reports from The Saipan Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Saipan Tribune.

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