Inside American Samoa’s Forestry Programs: A Staff Member’s Perspective

Staff Contribution by Sara Goodwin

In my role as Director of Communications for the Council of Western State Foresters (CWSF) and Western Forestry Leadership Coalition (WFLC), I recently had the opportunity to accompany the USDA Forest Service (Forest Service) Region 5 staff for a trip to American Samoa. The primary intent of the visit was to complete a State & Private Forestry Program Review for the American Samoa forestry team. The purpose of a State & Private Forestry Program Review is to evaluate progress, successes, and challenges encountered over the past five years. 

During my time in American Samoa, I engaged with the forestry staff, witnessed the successes and progress the team has made, and gathered content and photos for CWSF/WFLC communications materials.

It was an incredible opportunity, and I am eager to share a few highlights from the visit:

  • Exceptional Forestry Staff - The American Samoa forestry team is housed under the American Samoa Community College, Agriculture, Community and Natural Resources Division. Forestry Program Manager DJ Sene, and his entire team, went above and beyond to make the most of the time we had together. The forestry staff demonstrated that they are a cohesive, high performing team, capable of producing a large volume of work. American Samoa can (and should) be looked to as a leader in our field! 
  • Progress on Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) Projects - American Samoa is among the first to complete BIL funded projects. Highlights include collaboration with the National Park of American Samoa to remove the invasive plant Merremia peltata and using Forest Stewardship Program funds to establish a second nursery to support landowner clients, farmers, and communities with tree production and distribution. 
  • Focus on Engaging Youth - American Samoa has done an excellent job engaging the younger generation in forestry and natural resources. Over the last two years, the American Samoa forestry team has hosted 38 interns, ages 18-35, to assist with forestry projects and outreach. Additionally, a subgrant was awarded to Leone High School to establish an after-school forestry program to plant native trees and introduce high school students to forestry and natural resources.
  • Warm Welcome from the Forest Service - It is not typical for an outside partner to be invited to attend a Forest Service Program Review, and the opportunity was greatly appreciated! My participation gave me valuable insight into the Program Review process and allowed me to contribute from a partner and communications perspective. This engagement strengthened my overall partnership with my Region 5 colleagues. 

As part of my larger work with our Pacific Island members, I am developing several communication products for each Pacific Island. These products have been carefully decided and crafted based on the needs of each individual island.

For American Samoa, I am working in tandem with the forestry staff to develop infographics to educate the community on the Little Fire Ant. I am also creating a one-pager highlighting the success of a recently completed Landscape Scale Restoration project to clean up local watersheds.

I look forward to sharing these products, along with those developed for the other Pacific Islands, once they are across the finish line! 

Please feel free to contact me if you’d like to learn more about my time in American Samoa or how we might be able to connect our states, islands, and partners with DJ Sene and his forestry team. 

Fa’afetai to the entire American Samoa team for being so kind, welcoming, and helping to grow my understanding of the opportunities and challenges you are facing.