Why Are Conservation Efforts Important?

Atolls are barrier reefs grown atop both subsiding volcanic edifices dating back tens of millions of years and episodic coral reef growth and discontinuity relative to sea level along millennial timescales. The atolls of the Marshall Islands in the Central Pacific Ocean have been home for millennia to a seafaring society, the stage for critical battles across the Pacific Theater during WWII, and some of the most terrible nuclear experiments mankind has ever conducted. It is also home to the Reimaanlok Framework.

From the end of the nineteenth century, environmental impacts and threats have increased markedly. Land clearing (e.g. housing, airstrips), plantation development, pollution, waste, commercial fisheries and population have all increased, with climate change and resulting sea level rise emerging as the greatest threat of all. As dynamic and living geological features, the 29 atolls and 5 reef islands of the Marshall Islands need conservation action and stewardship to be resilient against the existential threat climate change poses to Marshallese livelihoods and culture.

 
 

What is the Reimaanlok Framework?

The 8-step Reimaanlok Conservation Area Management Planning Framework helps atoll communities in the Marshall Islands think globally and act locally. It employs community-based tools and approaches to articulate local objectives that translate to national, regional and international goals.

Reimaanlok Process Diagram

Reimaanlok Process Diagram

Specifically, the Reimaanlok eight step process, when triggered by an atoll community’s leadership (Step 1), includes a scoping and budgeting exercise (Step 2), site visits by Reimaanlok facilitators to build awareness on the need for resource planning by the target atoll community (Step 3), followed by the gathering and analysis of various natural and social resource data parameters (Step 4) in order to design (Step 5) and ultimately legislate (Step 6) an integrated atoll resource management plan inclusive of programs to ensure ongoing monitoring and adaptive management (Step 7) and local commitment retention (Step 8). Given the specific needs and unique circumstances of atoll municipalities, the Reimaanlok facilitation consortium known as the Coastal Management Advisory Council (CMAC) may follow these eight steps in a linear or iterative process. This helps foster a sense of trust and shared purpose within the community and of the Reimaanlok facilitators, so that the process itself is an empowering experience for atoll communities and a vehicle for national cohesion and shared purpose among members of CMAC.

Flight back to MICS Headquarters after Step 4 on Wotho Atoll

Flight back to MICS Headquarters after Step 4 on Wotho Atoll

Among the many noteworthy atoll-appropriate features of the Reimaanlok process, in Step 3 a Local Resource Committee (LRC) is established by the municipal government which then oversees the development of the resource management plan in that atoll. Step 4 is also noteworthy in that it entails gathering rich datasets along socioeconomic, ecological, and physical parameters. These data inputs feed into the ConservationGIS database being developed by CMAC.

 

Some communities using this approach are finding early success as they proceed in the step-by-step process of articulating threats and their needs and priorities, codifying these into a management plan with various short, medium, and long term measures including in enhancing their ecosystem and socio-economic resilience to climate impacts. Moreover, these municipalities/communities remain engaged in the process of implementing and monitoring these measures as a unifying endeavor for their community.

At the national level, the Reimaanlok Framework is finding success as well, as it becomes increasingly mainstreamed within national government legislation, governance, and financing systems most importantly within the RMI Protected Area Network (PAN). In addition to smaller grants from funding partners such as Seacology, GEF Small Grants Program, and the Micronesia Conservation Trust, there are a few large multi-million dollar initiatives that advance the Reimaanlok Framework including:

  • World Bank/GEF-6 Pacific Regional Oceanscape Project

  • United Nations GEF-5 Ridge to Reef Project

  • German BMUB International Climate Initiative Project

  • US Dept. of Interior Coral Reef Initiative

 
 

What Is The CMAC?

The Coastal Management Advisory Council (CMAC) is a team of people from a range of organizations and backgrounds – all with a common interest in the conservation, development and management of the irreplaceable coastal and marine resources of the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI). The team functioned for several years as M2EIC, an ad-hoc working group with a focus on community-based fisheries management. During this time, the group developed experience and capacity to carry out resource management activities, and also realized that these skills and knowledge could be utilized in other areas of need including conservation, focused management, coastal zone management, climate change and disaster risk reduction.

CMAC Group Photo

CMAC Group Photo

CMAC now provides a mechanism for collaboration, integration and technical advice on natural resources management in the RMI. Its membership includes:

 

Our Impact

Click on the images below to read more about the work MICS has been doing on the ground!