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U.S. EPA Honors 4 Environmental Heroes from Hawaii, Pacific Islands

Release Date: 04/16/2009
Contact Information: Wendy Chavez, 415 947 4248

40 groups and individuals recognized for outstanding achievement in protecting the environment

SAN FRANCISCO -- During the agency's 11th annual Environmental Awards Ceremony in San Francisco today, U.S. EPA acting Regional Administrator Laura Yoshii recognized four organizations and individuals from Hawaii and the Pacific Islands in recognition of their efforts to protect and preserve the environment in 2008.

“It is a great pleasure and honor that we can recognize the innovative and important environmental work achieved by this year’s impressive group of organizations and individuals, and the example they set for all of us to follow,” Yoshii said. “This year's winners and nominees have made superb efforts to protect and preserve our air, water and land, and increased awareness of the environmental challenges we all face.”

The Pacific Southwest’s Environmental Awards program acknowledges commitment and significant contributions to the environment in California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii, Pacific Islands and tribal lands. Forty groups and individuals were selected from over 200 nominees received this year from businesses, local, government officials, tribes, media, environmental organizations and community activists.

The Hawaiian and Pacific Islands winners are:

Laura Andersen
West Hawaii Youth Fisheries Council
Hualalai Academy
Kailua-Kona, HI
In an effort to clean up local beaches, smoking was banned at all Hawaii County Parks in 2008. This was a result of several years of efforts by middle and high school students of the West Hawaii Youth Fisheries Council at Hualalai Academy. The council first initiated a law to ban smoking at Kahalu'u Beach Park. As part of a beach clean-up, they collected over 2,000 cigarette butts in 30 minutes at the beach to demonstrate the magnitude of the problem. They spent months doing research, gathering petition signatures and testifying more than six times before the Hawaii County Council. The students helped write the bill to ban smoking at the beach park, which was approved unanimously at every step. Kahalu'u Beach Park was the first smoke and tobacco-free beach on the Big Island of Hawaii, and Hawaii was the first county in the state to ban smoking at all county parks.

David "Buddy" Nobriga
West Maui Soil & Water Conservation District
Kahului, HI
Born and raised on his family farm in Maui, Buddy Nobriga has dedicated over 50 years to the conservation of Hawaii’s natural resources. In 1956, he founded the West Maui Soil and Water Conservation District, the first in the county. His passion for protecting the environment of West Maui has had lasting benefits for the watershed. In recognition of his strong leadership skills and commitment to the community and the environment, Nobriga was appointed to many state boards and commissions. Nobriga, now retired, provided the needed leadership on the importance of controlling polluted runoff. The EPA is deeply grateful for his leadership, zeal, guidance and solid support for advancing the polluted runoff program and his devotion to environmental stewardship.

Friends of the Monument
Saipan, MP
Friends of the Monument was formed to help promote the idea of creating a national marine monument in the waters around the three northernmost islands of the Northern Mariana Islands. The Friends of the Monument engaged in activities to help educate the community --distributing leaflets, conducting meetings, and coordinating with teachers for classroom presentations. The organization gathered more than 6,000 signatures on petitions in support of the designation of a Monument. The Friends sent representatives to Washington, D.C. to meet with White House officials, and participated in television and radio public service announcements and advertising. Ultimately, they were instrumental in the process that resulted in former President George W. Bush designating the Marianas Trench Marine Monument, along with three larger national marine monuments.

Betwin Alokoa, Karl Olson and Mercy Muņa
Guam EPA Pesticides Program
Barrigada, GU
The Guam EPA Pesticides Program, led by Betwin Alokoa, Karl Olson, and Mercy Muņa, often goes above and beyond what is required. They’ve been instrumental in preventing unlawful pesticides from entering Guam ports, being sold on the island, and applied to crops. Their notable achievements include completing revisions to the 25 year-old Guam Pesticides Act, and getting quick approval by the legislature and governor. They followed up with 14 stakeholder meetings to explain the new requirements, and their experiences in the field are reflected in the new, more protective laws. They’ve also increased the number of pesticide inspections at farms, resulting in improved compliance and better protection for consumers. In addition, they’ve trained Guam’s customs and quarantine officers to detect illegal pesticides to prevent them from coming ashore, have provided similar training for customs, quarantine, and health officers in the Northern Mariana Islands.

For the complete list of winners, visit: Beginning today and throughout the coming weeks, a series of blogs will feature several of the winners at: