Northern Marianas College in Saipan has an extraordinary group of student volunteers eager to answer conservation’s call.
These students, members of a college club called Environmental & Natural Resource Organization, are known throughout the community for their environmental work. Whether cleaning beaches and city streets or tending public gardens, they are role models and valuable volunteers in the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service Earth Team program. Earth Team is the volunteer workforce of NRCS.
A faculty member in the NMC Math, Science, & Health Department founded ENRO in 2009. Since then, students have led, planned and organized conservation activities. These students log countless volunteer hours cleaning up and improving the environment of Saipan. In addition to picking up trash and weeding, they spend their free time learning about more complex methods of conservation.
“I take the ENRO students out to the field so they can learn about NRCS’ conservation practices firsthand,” says NRCS Soil Conservation Technician Martin Naputi. “When I need extra hands around the office or help staffing a booth, I know I can count on ENRO.”
In 2012 and 2013, ENRO helped NRCS staff its booth for several days at the Saipan EXPO, a major international conservation event, held annually on the island. NRCS lacked enough local employees to keep its booth staffed, but ENRO volunteered to help. As students of conservation, they skillfully managed the booth, helping all who were interested in NRCS by providing information about how the agency can help private landowners put conservation to work on their property.
In 2012, to mark the 150th anniversary of the Agriculture Department’s founding, ENRO volunteered to weed around saplings planted as part of a watershed re-vegetation conservation plan. And even a downpour didn’t dampen their volunteer spirit—the students spent the entire day out in the rain, weeding around 10 acres of native trees.
Naputi praises the students as role models for the community. “Effective conservation takes a community,” he says. “The ENRO students are model citizens of that community.”
In recognition of their work, NRCS awarded ENRO the National Earth Team Volunteer Group award for 2012. Thank you, ENRO!
Find out how to become an Earth Team volunteer in your community.
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Check out other conservation-related stories on the USDA blog.