20 The Daily News. Friday. December 5, 1997
natural resources face crisis
Whet is the state of the Terito-
ry's environment. somebody asked
In the natural resources program
of the extenlion service, we stated,
he Virgin Islands re fcing a crl.-
sis situation regarding the state of
its natural resources and environ-
meot. The marine and terrestrial
systems amre lonely inoter-relatled
aod m heavily impacted by a pop-
ulation. There are approximately
110,000 riding on tlocl of onldy
130 square mils.
However. population density,
potculadly in St. Thomas anod St.
oh, is higher than is isted by
this number due to cocentralion of
population in urban centers and less
steep outlying areas. Urban, subur-
ba= ctm l snd meiosm.relst.
Pred d elopme are distinctly siter-
g the tisneds fgil ecosystems at
a rapid te.
The islands are currently in a
state of over-development as evi.
danced by the rapid pace of bous-
ing, tourism, shopping mails and
road onstruction. Proposed major
development, along with the addi-
tional population they will bring.
wail further stoi tthe lreody inude-
quate s*d over burdened island
iof a Ut .1st
Ecosylstem degradation has
remolthed from development activi-
ties, primarily through poor land
Fleating and idadcping ptclices
that negatiovely impact flora.
wildlife, soil and water reources.
Large scale removsl of vogct-
ltion reduces wildlife habitat, pro-
motes soil erosion and sedimento-
lo., and threats biological diver-
sity. Sediment and wastewater e
by far the primary pollutos impai.
ing Vigin islads watet. Appmoxi.
snuely 800 to 1000 naoiVe or mto-
ralized species grow in the Virgin
Islands, some unique to this ara.
At least 50 plant and 27 animal
species have so f.ar been listed as
locally enda=gd and 2 pbst and
8 animal species are included on the
Federal Endangered species Ust. Of
particular concern is the rapid bes
Squtely treated sewage Ispumped
ilo the ocean sad coastal waters
Olasee daily by way of outfall pipes and
Davis failing septic systems, posing
human and environmeoall health
a e mit Thee hbs beon a marked dcline
10 ls local oirhery. due both to pol-
of moist forest and dry forest lution and over-fishing. The
ecoyslms. Construction long the destructive prsctices ore sot only
idgo lines and in guls are rapidly damaging the environment but
depleting moist forest habitat, open- thretesn o undermine the islands
ing areas to exotic species invasion, numberone industry. tourism.
and resulting in microclimate Ironilcally. he tourism indnty
c. 0in l h rislbds., on which 90 percent of the loco1
Several was disposal problems economy is based, is gesared
exist on all three islands. Virgin owards the aracdion of the naour
Islanders generate 1 1/2 tons of environment to visitors. People
garbage per person per year. The come here to enjoy clear waters and
majority of which is paper 28 prstine beaches in a lush tropical
prenot nd food waste 16 pr- environment.
cers.mlo waste is disposed of in
landfills which are rapidly Educatoon is needed at all lov
approaching capacity. Neither of of the community to halt the
the landfilbs currently In operation destruisio of the marine and terr-
in the territory are EPA-Approved tial environment so that sano con-
sanilary landfills with lines *nd my based o t ecouorism can floor.
wlachatest cotio syselm.a ih sId the quality of life of the res-
The Bovoni landfill on St. idents can be maintained or
Thobu is osufeing from extesive Improved. There Is growing
underground fires nd there is demand hefom educators for oasning
widespread concern regarding the and materials that rdfci the iatndel
effects of Iheb fires on the health resources cvironment issues of
of residents in the area. confer in the is mds.
Tho Aognii tla ndfill on St. ln m itlor l the odal postlartd.
Coix is posing a flight haed to including local policy-makers and
the adjace rt and Ihe Virgin regulators lack access to complex
Islands government i under order a unbiase oed informaon on which
by FAA 0t dose aoor move the to bae their decisions and, often
landfill in order to recelvo federal have an incomplete understanding
funding for aiport expansion and f complex evironmentl issues.
renovation. Loc agencies charged with envi-
In addition, due to the small area ronmental regulation and steward-
of the Islands and relatively large ship lack the resoures personal and
population, there are few, if any expertise to dal with he myriad of
suitable sioe available to buheild new problems they are faced with on a
landfills. Improper disposal of daily basis."
toxic, hazardous, and infectious
maleais into these n.tasnilsy ad- You se. the state of the territory
nills allows Ichahles to ooentralim environment is not bright. Am you
ground water supplies and colste doing your part to make it better.
waters and fisheries. Lilltr is a terri- olaoeer Dai to ha marer
oloy.wide problem thats local dean- of ,scece dgree in rage mag.
up programs barely det. meet and forestry ecotogy. i a St.
Millions of gallons of inade- Croi ecologsio activist adwriter.