WASHINGTON, DC—In mid-December, Sandra Frost, a partnership liaison within USDA Forest Service Watershed, Fish, Wildlife, Air, and Rare Plants, returned to Indonesia 25 years after her first visit to re-engage with Komodo National Park and explore a new partnership with Yayasan Puter, a local nongovernmental organization based in West Java. Frost participated in a technical exchange with the park around the evolving forest and marine protection issues it faces.
In West Java, Frost shared examples of wildlife festivals in the U.S. that serve to build coalitions to promote conservation and conservation education. Yayasan Puter’s initiative, the Javan Hawk Eagle Trail, is focused on improving the safety and educational value of trails in national parks across the island of Java, which contains the habitat of the Javan hawk eagle, Nisaetus bartelsi, the most endangered raptor in the world. Frost’s experience was incredibly valuable during planning discussions related to the trail development project, as she was involved in the design and establishment of the Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival, an International Migratory Bird Festival in Cordova, Alaska, and has worked on a variety of other wildlife-focused education initiatives, such as Bat Week.
The knowledge sharing and expertise that Frost and other Forest Service employees bring to long-term partnerships allows for more forward-thinking efforts and plans to protect enigmatic and culturally important endemic species like the Komodo dragon Javan hawk eagle.
Komodo National Park was established in 1980 as one of Indonesia’s first national parks and was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991. The park was created to protect the habitat of Komodo dragons, Varanus komodoensis, which are found nowhere else in the world. Today, the conservation goals of the park have broadened, as it also encompasses a wide range of endemic terrestrial fauna and is rich in marine life. The government of Indonesia’s need to balance the creation of sustainable livelihoods against the potential threat that tourism poses to the conservation needs of the park and other protected areas lent itself well to a meaningful partnership with USDA Forest Service.
Collaboration initially began in 1991, when a joint cooperative agreement on forestry was signed by officials from the Ministry of Forestry (now the Ministry of Environment and Forestry) and the USDA Forest Service. Activities generated from this partnership focused on capacity building so the Indonesian government could better plan, develop and manage nature-based tourism. Frost was one of the original consultants for these activities.