USVI Reforestation Effort to Start Small

A proposed site for the small forest near the school at St. Croix Educational Complex, across from the University of the Virgin Islands Albert A. Sheen campus. (Photo: Jarvon Stout)

With vast tracts of the world’s forests turning into farmland and pasture, it’s easy to think of reforestation efforts only on a large scale. A new effort in the US Virgin Islands seeks to do the opposite, starting small, even tiny.

The Tiny Forest project wants to transform disused spaces, brownfields, brownfields and brownfields across the land into bastions of local trees, said Jarvon Stout, community engagement specialist with the University of the Isles Experimental Program. Blanks to stimulate competitive research.

The plan involves identifying areas where local trees could thrive, priming the ground and planting seedlings, Stout said. The experiment will probably begin in empty spaces near the territory’s public schools.

“What we’re really trying to do is create these natural spaces in the communities. And we thought the best way to do that was to start in schools. Schools, in their own way, are community hubs.

Partnering with the Virgin Islands Eco-Schools program was a natural fit, Stout said. The program has an existing platform in schools to teach literacy and environmental awareness. Hands-on learning would also strengthen students’ understanding of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math in the classroom.

“One of our issues is trying to spread environmental education, environmental literacy to the community in a tactile way, but also involving community members so that we learn first hand about the natural resources around them,” he said.

At some point, that community involvement will be volunteers wearing work gloves, Stout said. At this early stage, while details are worked out with the Department of Education, organizers have asked anyone with native seedlings to consider donating to the cause.

The seedlings will be nurtured using the Miyawaki method, which gradually reduces shade as the plants grow, slowly adapting them to the environment that will be their home, Stout said. The process can help trees grow 10 times faster than usual.

Similarly, Stout hopes the program can expand beyond schools.

“There is a very specific methodology that people are using in urban areas around the world to create a small woodland environment on land that has been degraded or generally used for things that weren’t environmental. It could have been construction; it could have been a wasteland; it could have been a community gathering area that just deteriorated over time,” he said.

Wooded spaces aren’t just beautiful, Stout said. They have a real global and personal impact. And the existing forests in the Virgin Islands can be difficult to access – requiring car or ferry trips.

“Faced with climate change and the risk of losing a lot of critical habitats, essential resources, many communities are trying to find ways to preserve their local biodiversity in urban spaces,” he said. “We have a lot of forest in the VI, but unfortunately not many ways to access these natural spaces.”

Anyone with seedlings to share or wanting more information about the project can contact Jarvon Stout at [email protected]

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