The University of the Virgin Islands and the VI Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) want to know how the community uses the territory's wetlands. A wetland is an area that is covered with water, or where the soil is saturated most of the time. Wetlands include impoundments, swamps, marshes and guts.
In an effort to assess and ensure the best use of the territory's wetlands, UVI, DPNR and Island Resources Foundation undertook a pilot project to characterize wetlands and associated watersheds. Eighteen priority watershed areas, of the territory's 50, were assessed and characterized. Geographic Information System technology was used to produce an inventory of wetlands and watersheds throughout the territory and produce maps and data.
Now the project has moved into Phase II - "Virgin Islands Wetlands and Watersheds Characterization Phase II: Inventory, Monitoring, Assessment, Management and Education in the U.S. Virgin Islands." The goal is to complete the preparation of GIS map visuals showing all wetlands in the USVI, complete the assessment by compiling associated data, develop a wetlands management framework and share the results with the public. Public input is very important to the project.
"Wetlands are culturally and economically important," said Lloyd Gardner, project leader of the wetlands project. The quality of life in the Virgin Islands and the strength of the Virgin Islands economy depend heavily on maintaining and restoring the health of the nearshore coastal environment, added Gardner, president of Environmental Support Services, LLC.
Stevie Henry, UVI's principal investigator of the project's phase II, looks forward to receiving input from the public. "We need to know what wetlands are considered a priority, how they are being used and how the public would like to see them protected," Henry said. He gave an example that some wetlands may be used to catching juvenile fish for use as bait, while others may be used for educating the public about ecosystems.
In addition to providing information about the territory's wetlands and their uses, the public is also asked to provide materials such as photographs and maps. One of the major outputs of the project will be an educational "Resource Management Guide to the Wetlands and Watersheds of the Virgin Islands."
To provide input on the territory's wetlands or for more information call Stevie Henry at 693-1033 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.