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CLTC working to clean up its act

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by Janjeera Hail

Guam - Inconsistent records and a bevy of violations: that's the report on the Chamorro Land Trust Commission.  The agency's agricultural leases were the focus of a presentation today at the University of Guam but the results of the report will help guide the entire agency towards developing a commission that can better serve the needs of the island. 

The study, conducted over several months from July to September of this year, identified problems like unauthorized homes and septic systems, failure to meet minimum production and tree-planting requirements, violation of the agricultural land designation, unauthorized subleasing and employment, and unauthorized livestock operations.  These issues, however, pointed to a larger problem: inconsistent record keeping. 

Dr. Bob Barber is an extension agricultural economist at UOG and the project manager, and said, "If you're going to do commercial agriculture, you'd expect there would be at least some formal plans for someone to show that they know what they're producing and yet only some of the files have farm plans in them others might have farm plans that don't relate to what's actually going on or farm plans that were developed prior to knowing which piece of land they got."

This brought to light another question - integrity within the CLTC.  There was at least one incident cited where a record mysteriously disappeared then reappeared over the course of the study. And, because the number of employees with pending applications and current leases was so high compared to the large number of bypassed applicants, the report recommended that all pending and new lease applications submitted by CLTC employees be frozen in order to preserve the integrity of the agency.

Commissioner Carmen Tajalle called for more employee accountability.  "We must have some kind of audited quarterly monthly or yearly to keep everybody honest to keep the Chamorro Land Trust integrity because obviously listening so far we at the commission are well aware of these issues," she noted.

To address the gaps in the records themselves, the report recommended that letters be sent out to lease holders citing violations but also providing guidance for compliance.  "The letters is just the beginning dialogue and to let people know we're serious about this and this is where the dialogue begins," added Dr. Barber.

The university's Agricultural Department plans to hold workshops for farmers on a variety of subjects including methods for farming rocky terrain, livestock waste management, and how to develop a farm plan.  Acting Chairman of the CLTC Oscar Calvo said the report is a first step for the department to clean up the agency.

He said, "That gives us a foundation now to hand this over to the Legislature because in order for this to really handle everything here is also we need to have the support of the Legislature, and that's where we need their assistance in how are we going to solve all these problems."

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