PI-CASC scholar records wildfire damage across southern Guam lands

Farron Taijeron gestures towards piece of scorched land
Farron Taijeron shows a glimpse of wildfire aftermath in southern Guam lands on January 16, 2022.

What initially was a Saturday morning hike through the southern mountains of Guam for Farron Taijeron ended up to be a grim view of wildfire devastation through acres of watershed and surrounding lands. 

Taijeron, a Climate Adaptation for Resource Management (CARM) fellow with the Pacific Islands Climate Adaptation Science Center (PI-CASC), recorded through the lens of a camera the aftermath of human-caused fire damage on January 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 on 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, as well as reducing soil erosion slipping 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. 

A scorched brown landscape illustrates the aftermath of a wildfire
Acres of land in southern Guam were scorched from a wildfire event on January 15, 2022.

“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.” 

Passion for conservation

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. 

Taijeron is an undergraduate student majoring in agriculture and life sciences at the University of Guam. His CARM fellowship is supported by a USGS PI-CASC funded project that looks into wildfires and drought in the U.S.-affiliated Pacific islands. Through his project, he is examining perceptions and knowledge about wildfire 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.  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,” said Romina King, PI-CASC UOG lead. 

Taijeron’s recent wildfire videos can be viewed on his Instagram page, where he is called “the Guam Guy.” His videos have appeared in local news outlets and he recently partnered with news group KUAM to host a new podcast focused on environmental issues on Guam. The inaugural episode is on wildfire.