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By Ulysses Torres Sabuco

CNMI, Saipan (Marianas Variety, April 1) – Lawmakers on the Northern Mariana island of Rota have begun efforts to further protect the natural beauty of the island, and have identified several sites for eco-tourism projects that include rehabilitation and protection.

"The (legislative) delegation is trying to seek funding (for) major eco-tourism projects on Rota. This is the only thing that our mayor and our people have been trying to promote on our island – eco-tourism," said Senate Floor Leader Paul A. Manglona, R-Rota.

Sen. Paterno S. Hocog, Ind.-Rota, said the project will cost approximately $1.3 million.

"We are trying to work out with our governor for this project. This will educate our visitors about the many opportunities available to them on the island," Hocog separately told Variety.

The Rota Legislative Delegation has tapped Greg Schroer of Resources Northwest to work on the initial planning of the project. It is now in its first phase.

In an interview with the Variety, Schroer said the project is designed as a "balanced approach" to proper land use of "conservation and tourism opportunities" and at the same time, resolve homestead issues.

"There has always been eco-tourism projects and proposals in the past. But this is more comprehensive and it is going to take many years to develop," conservationist Schroer said.

There are five sites and areas that have been identified by the delegation as "preliminary" for the eco-tourism project.

These are the trail to Liyo Conservation Area Summit, the scenic walking and biking trail across Rota, and the improvement of the I Chenchon Bird Sanctuary Visitor Facility.

They have also recommended the "professional planning and initial development" of Rota’s other historical sites.

They recommended the hiring of an archaeologist/historic planner to design a "visitor interpretation facilities" for the Mochong Prehistoric village and the Gampapa Prehistoric village.

"The complexities of these villages and the abundance of artifacts requires detailed planning to determine how best to provide quality visitor experience while also protecting these sites," a portion of the preliminary findings said. "Attempts will also be made to find funding to develop basic infrastructure at that site so they can be opened to the public."

The Rota Airport Visitor Center will have a multi-media display of the island’s natural and historic eco-tourism features.

The center will also provide a point where local tourism businesses can advertise, such as lodgings, restaurants, tour guides, diving service, fishing, among others.

The center is currently not fully funded.

The Rota Legislative Delegation has requested "shared funding and labor" with the Commonwealth Ports Authority, the Division of Fish and Wildlife, the Historic Preservation Office and Marianas Visitors Authority.

"The proposed center will help educate visitors about them any opportunities available to them by communicating Rota’s rich natural and cultural legacy," said the preliminary report.

April 1, 2004

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