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EPA Honors Virgin Islanders For Outstanding Environmental Achievements

Release Date: 04/23/1998
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(#98043) San Juan, P.R. -- Four individuals and organizations from the U.S. Virgin Islands were honored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today for their outstanding commitment to protecting the environment, as EPA Region 2 Administrator, Jeanne Fox, announced Environmental Quality Awards to the honorees during a ceremony held at the U.S. Court of International Trade in New York City. Dr. Joanne Fox-Przeworski, Director of the United Nations Environment Programme for North America and Environmental Quality Award recipient, gave the key note address.

"The work of the Environmental Quality Award winners has had a direct effect on the quality of the environment in the Virgin Islands," said Jeanne M. Fox, EPA Region 2 Administrator. "The unwavering commitment of these Virgin Islanders to making our world a better place should serve as an example to us all. These awards are our way of saying ‘thank you' to the adults and young people with whom we share a sense of environmental purpose."

EPA Region 2 presents Environmental Quality Awards annually to individuals, nonprofit groups, educators, businesspeople, government officials and journalists from New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands who have made significant contributions to improving the quality of the environment in the region. Winners are chosen by an internal panel that reviews nominations submitted from inside and outside the Agency.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Region 2

Environmental Quality Award Winners: Virgin Islands

Individual

Susanna Ocasio, St. Croix

Susanna Ocasio, through sheer determination and back-breaking work, is single-handedly propagating and planting hundreds of trees, shrubs and flowers in an effort to beautify Altoona Lagoon, a barren park in St. Croix. In the process, she is educating many islanders about the value of protecting their natural resources and giving them a park of which they can be proud. Thanks to her efforts, there is less litter, more bird life and more recreational use of the park.

Non-Profit Group

Paula Morgan, Thom McClelland, and the "Reef Rangers", St. Thomas

Paula Morgan and Thom McClelland, both avid snorkelers and divers, were alarmed at the rapid deterioration of coral reefs around the U.S. Virgin Islands and wanted to do something to protect these fragile ecosystems. With their own money, and the addition of community donations, they began an ongoing community education project called "Reef Rangers" in early 1997 to mark the "International Year of the Reef." Paula and Thom chose 14 children who swim well and love science and the sea, and trained them on coral reef identification, the local humpback whale populations, water quality monitoring, and prepared them to learn scuba-diving. They videotaped the training so they could share with other environmental educators, and brought their "Reef Rangers" to regional conferences where students participated in writing legislation that protects coral reefs.

St. Croix Environmental Association, St. Croix

The spread of environmental awareness is the basic mission of the St. Croix Environmental Association (SEA). Since 1990, SEA has sponsored annual summer Outdoor Adventure Weeks that teach 9 to 12 year-olds environmental concepts and provide hikes and snorkeling expeditions where the children can observe nature first-hand. SEA also coordinates teacher training workshops for educators, in which they share and distribute information that the teachers can pass on to their students. In addition, SEA takes an active role in protecting St. Croix's natural resources and has advocated for legislation that would prevent destructive development and contributed expert testimony for a comprehensive Land and Water Use Plan.

Government

Division of Fish & Wildlife, US Virgin Islands Department of Parks & Natural Resources, St. Thomas

The Division of Fish & Wildlife's Environmental Education Program works to increase the public's awareness of the U.S. Virgin Island's natural resources, its fish and wildlife habitants and its environmental issues. They believe that through increased awareness, people will understand that changing their behavior is essential to the health of the environment, and ultimately their own quality of life. The program distributes information at all educational levels, including numerous brochures addressing a variety of environmental issues, educational videotapes, the "Tropic News" and "Tropic Kids News" monthly newsletters, environmental posters, coloring books and more.

Nominees for the 1999 Environmental Quality Awards should be sent to Chris Sebastian, 290 Broadway, New York, New York 10007.


For more information contact:
Mary Mears, Press Office
EPA Region 2
290 Broadway
NY, NY 10007-1866
Voice: 212-637-3669 FAX: 212-637-5046 E-Mail: mears.mary@epamail.epa.gov