Achievements of USAID’s B+WISER Program appreciated in the Bicol Region

Jeremy Gustafson, Director of USAID’s Environment Office (center) poses with DENR Region 5 officials led by Assistant Regional Director Bobby Sheen (fourth from left) during an appreciation event to celebrate the achievements of the B+WISER Program in the Bicol region. (USAID/B+WISER)

Category: August 2017

On August 17, Jeremy Gustafson, Director of USAID’s Environment Office, formally accepted a plaque of appreciation awarded by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to USAID’s Biodiversity and Watersheds Improved for Stronger Economy and Ecosystem Resilience (B+WISER) Program in the Bicol Region. Engineer Bobby D. Sheen, Assistant Regional Director, handed over the plaque during an appreciation ceremony.

More than forty representatives from six local government units (LGU), DENR offices in Region 5 and a Division Chief of the Forest Management Bureau participated in the event. “A lot can be achieved if we work together,” stated Mr. Gustafson in his speech, praising the broad participation of different stakeholders to improve natural resource management in the Quinali Watershed, one of B+WISER’s original program sites. The B+WISER Program has been implemented there since December 2012 and introduced science-based conservation strategies improving natural resource management in the watershed. The Quinali watershed is a lifeline for the Bicol region, where 70% of the region’s rice is produced making its protection a high priority to improve community resilience. Along those lines, B+WISER successfully incorporated results of climate-related vulnerability assessments in local resource management plans and trained LGUs located in the watershed to effectively monitor the condition of riverbanks and stabilize them to improve the resilience of farming communities and the urban population. To better protect the 7,000 hectares of remaining natural forest in the uplands of the watershed delivering important ecosystem services, management plans of two protected areas were improved by incorporating forest-specific conservation targets and protection objectives. Measurable conservation targets are main elements of the Lawin Forest and Biodiversity Protection System which, since the DENR adopted the system as part of its national forest protection strategy in March 2016, is now protecting 209,000 hectares of forest in the entire Bicol Region beyond the watershed. “We will sustain the initiatives that have been started by the program,” said Maria Teresa Atas, representative of Albay Governor Alfrancis Bichara. After the ceremony, Jeremy joined DENR forest patrollers from PENRO Albay in a Lawin patrol in the foothills of the Mount Mayon Natural Park.

Jeremy Gustafson, Director of USAID’s Environment Office (front) joins forest patrollers of PENRO Albay in a Lawin patrol in the foothills of Mayon Volcano Natural Park. (Photo: USAID/B+WISER)
The plaque of appreciation. (Photo: USAID/B+WISER)