The UOG student fighting Guam wildfires with public awareness
What initially was a Saturday morning hike through the southern mountains of Guam for Farron Taijeron ended up being a grim view of wildfire devastation through acres of watershed and surrounding lands.
Taijeron, a sophomore agriculture and life sciences major at the University of Guam and a Climate Adaptation for Resource Management fellow with the Pacific Islands Climate Adaptation Science Center (PI-CASC) at the University, recorded through the lens of a camera the aftermath of human-caused fire damage on Jan. 15, 2022 — scorched earth, trees, and ash filling the sky.
With the assistance of his friend’s drone footage, Taijeron pieced together short videos to show his social media followers the dangers of wildfires and what happens when people are not responsible.
“I truly had no words for what I witnessed,” Taijeron said. “All wildfires on Guam are human-caused — whether intentional or not. With my videos, I wanted people to see just how much impact an act of carelessness can have on Guam’s nature.”
The fires had ravaged dozens of acres of acacia trees planted by the Guam Department of Agriculture’s Forestry Division. Hundreds of volunteers planted these saplings, which were intended for reforestation in the badlands to reduce soil erosion into the ocean. While at the scene, Taijeron shared his observations with the forestry team and returned to the site the next day to look at the aftermath.
“All wildfires on Guam are human-caused -- whether intentional or not.”
“Human wildfires continue to set our reforestation efforts back,” said Christine Fejeran, chief of forestry at the Guam Department of Agriculture. “We will continue to ardently educate our island about wildfire prevention. I am hopeful that Farron’s work will help raise additional awareness and augment our mission to bring back healthy native forests. Healthy forests, healthy people.”
Taijeron is no stranger to natural resource monitoring and management. As a conservation coordinator with The Nature Conservancy and a fervent advocate for Guam’s environment, he has often seen first-hand the negative impacts human activity has on land and sea.
As part of his efforts to raise awareness to the island community, he creates videos of his personal experiences in hopes of educating residents to be more responsible when heading outdoors.
His personal wildfire videos have appeared in local news outlets and can be viewed on his Instagram page, where he is called “the Guam Guy.”
Additionally, through his fellowship — which is supported by a U.S. Geological Survey-funded PI-CASC project that looks into wildfires and drought in the U.S.-affiliated Pacific islands — Taijeron is examining perceptions and knowledge about wildfires on Guam. He hopes to identify gaps in the exchange of information between natural resource agencies and the public to improve outreach efforts on wildfire prevention.
“Farron is passionate about protecting Guam’s environment,” said Romina King, PI-CASC lead at UOG. "He independently took the initiative to produce these disconcerting videos that raise awareness of the devastation of wildfires to less traveled areas on Guam. We are so proud to partner with the Division of Forestry and Soils Resources at the Department of Agriculture and Farron through PI-CASC CARM and help bolster his professional capacity in natural resource management."
Taijeron recently recorded a public service announcement on wildfires with the Guam Coastal Management Program of the Guam Bureau of Statistics and Plans. The PSA is currently running on Sorensen Media Group radio stations. He also recently partnered with news group KUAM to host a new podcast focused on environmental issues on Guam. The inaugural episode is on wildfires.
PSAs produced by the Guam Coastal Management Program, Guam Bureau of Statistics & Plans
This story was originally published on the Pacific Islands Climate Adaptation Science Center website.