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Island's Environmental Info Is Now a Mouse Click Away

Sept. 28, 2006 — "Today is a milestone in our initiatives," said conservation official Louis Petersen Jr. during an unveiling ceremony Wednesday for the St. Croix Environmental Information Repository.
Petersen, the president of the V.I. Resource Conservation and Development Council (VI RC&D) was just one of many proud environmentalists and residents on hand for the ceremony at UVI's St. Croix West Campus.
The repository is a collaborative effort to digitize St. Croix's environmental information in order to provide access to researchers and concerned residents. According to literature from VI RC&D, the repository is a "compilation of reports, maps, educational materials and other environmental information related to St. Croix."
To make the project a reality, VI RC&D joined forces with St. Croix Environmental Association (SEA), UVI's Cooperative Extension Service (CES) and UVI's Eastern Caribbean Center. Additionally, the repository received a grant of more than $60,000 from the U.S. Environmental Planning Association to begin its research and compilation of information.
The repository, surrounded by the imposing vines of the baobab tree, is located near the old great house on the grounds of UVI. A small office filled with file cabinets, posters and five hard-working university staff is home to the environmental library.
VI RC&D is comprised of volunteers from many sectors of government, education and general public. They enlisted UVI and CES to house the single server that holds the digitized repository library. "The university provided a wonderful place," said SEA President Carol Burke. "This seems like the natural place for students" to research, she added.
Jim Casey, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Caribbean Protection Division coordinator, said there was a great need for this type of information resource. "St. Croix residents wanted something to put their hands on to find out about the quality of their environment," he said. VI RC&D applied for federal funding in early 2004 and received the monies from the competitive federal grant in late December. The project began January 2005.
The volunteers took a survey of environmental concerns on the island at venues such as the Agriculture Fair. The staff was able to begin to address the concerns of the public by gathering the information from the more than 300 people surveyed. They then began a telephone and direct-mail campaign to government and nonprofit organizations that have access to environmental information. The information was then digitized and compiled in the repository and is available not only to students and staff of UVI, but also to the general public.
VI RC&D representatives urged the audience to spread the word about the repository and encouraged anyone who has information they want to share to do so. The Department of Planning and Natural Resources was commended on its help in compiling most of the information within the repository.
CES project manager Kofi Boateng called the project "dynamic." He said the repository is "somewhere we can access our environmental information for the rest of our lives." Petersen reminded those in attendance that "the quality of our lives today and tomorrow depends on the quality of our environment."
The repository information is currently limited to St. Croix. Currently VI RC&D has no plans to expand the library to include information on the entire territory. Officials called the launch on St. Croix their "pilot project."
To find out more about how to access the repository, contact VI RC&D at 692-4053 or visit its website.
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