Environmental management in FSM

The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) is made up of four island states – Chuuk, Kosrae, Pohnpei and Yap. Located just north of the equator, FSM’s 600 islands are spread over 2,500 kilometres in the Pacific Ocean. The FSM Government recognises that the protection and sustainable management of FSM’s environment and natural resources are critical to the health and prosperity of the country’s citizens.[1]

FSM faces numerous environmental challenges including waste management, declining fish populations, increasing pressure on natural resources and rising sea levels, which threaten Micronesia's forests, agricultural areas and fresh-water supply.

Kosrae landscape photographed with drone technology. Photo by Scott Beitz

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Kosrae landscape photographed with drone technology. Photo by Scott Beitz


In 2010, the Governments of FSM and Australia signed a Partnership for Development, establishing a shared vision to work together to meet common challenges and to raise the standard of living for the people of FSM.[2] Three priority outcomes were identified – budgetary and economic self-reliance, development coordination and environmental management.  The environmental management priority recognises that development and enforcement of environmental policies, laws and regulations is fundamental to achieving FSM’s goals for environmental management and economic development.

In addition to Australia’s aid program to FSM, Australian volunteers are supporting FSM’s environmental management efforts, working with local organisations including the Kosrae Island Resource Management Authority (KIRMA), the Yap Environmental Protection Authority (Yap EPA), Micronesia Conservation Trust (MCT), and the Island Research and Education Initiative (IREI).

Since 2013, two Australian environmental lawyers have volunteered in FSM to help strengthen the country’s environmental management legal framework.

Loren Atkins volunteered with the Yap EPA for two and a half years as an Environmental Lawyer. In collaboration with Yap EPA staff and their Board, the State Government and partner organisations, Loren supported the review, development and enactment of a number of Yap’s environmental regulations.

Yap EPA’s Executive Director, Christine Fillmed, recognises the important contribution Loren made on her assignment.

“It was through this volunteer assignment that the agency has realised its goal of aligning and strengthening full regulatory scope in its mandate of environmental protection of air, land, and water resources. Loren has been responsible for over 35 legal instruments to improve regulation of environmental issues,” explains Christine.

Another volunteer has since joined Yap EPA to build on the outcomes of Loren’s assignment. Karen Hanson is currently on an 18-month assignment as a Compliance Program Development Adviser, focusing on permit writing and providing guidance on enforcement options available to the EPA such as civil penalties.

Karen has observed that Yapese proactively address environmental issues at institutional and community levels.

“Yap EPA is proactive in addressing environmental issues and is working with other State and international governments and non-government organisations to deal with these issues. I’ve also learnt that the Yapese are very community minded and work together more than individually. In each of the villages and municipalities they have clean-up days where they prune plants and mow the grass, or work in their gardens,” Karen says.

The Kosrae Island Resource Management Authority (KIRMA) has also been supported by a volunteer Environmental Lawyer. Emily Gibson spent two years (2013–2015) at KIRMA reviewing and updating regulations, frameworks and policies, and providing legal guidance for agency-linked activities. During her assignment, Emily contributed to regulations and bills addressing environmental issues including recycling, pesticides, pollution, waste management, air quality and protected area forest management.

More recently, Aimee Hall volunteered for 18-months at KIRMA as a Watershed and Fire Planning Officer. In addition to drafting a Watershed Management Plan and Community Wildfire Protection Plan for Kosrae, Aimee introduced new technologies to support KIRMA’s monitoring activities.

“Due to the low population and densely forested areas of Kosrae, it can be time consuming to hike to areas requiring monitoring so I introduced drone technology as a more effective way to monitor shoreline erosion and mangrove communities. I also introduced several phone applications to reduce the amount of data entry required following field activities,” Aimee explains.

 Aimee is grateful for what she learnt from her KIRMA colleagues and the Kosraen community.

“The invaluable and vast extent of knowledge KIRMA and the community have of their local ecosystems processes and pressures as a result of a partially subsistence lifestyle far exceeds the knowledge we could learn in textbooks.

“The wonderful residents of Kosrae taught me how to live a more relaxed lifestyle and to slow down and appreciate the present,” reflects Aimee.