There has been an overwhelming amount of news and editorials about the proposed, “National Park of the Sea.” I would like to clarify a few points.
The federal government – as I have said publicly time and time again in every single presentation I have made – is considering doing some additional monuments and several have been proposed by groups outside the government. The attached map highlights the many proposed projects under consideration by the White House. Pew Environment Group’s proposed project is the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument.
The federal government has done nothing public regarding the CNMI proposed project and has invested zero effort into investigating its merits to date. All work has been done by Pew Environment Group, which is a private entity. It is not now and never has been a government proposed project. That is why there has been no dialog between the federal government and the local government.
Last week the Legislature passed a joint resolution that was reported in the press as being in opposition to the proposed protected area. The next day, the headline on the front page of the paper read, “Marine Monument Nixed.” The article went on to say that the resolution read, “the Senate on behalf of the People of the CNMI, the House concurring, does not support the establishment, creation, or designation of a marine monument, marine sanctuary, or national park in the vicinity of any of the Northern Islands of the CNMI.”
In the resolution, there is no period at the end of the word CNMI. The papers failed to print that the resolution continues with, “at this time and feels that study, discussion, and deliberation is necessary before any further action is taken.”
The White House has been in dialogue with the various private groups, such as Pew Environment Group, and is going to make a decision within the next week or two as to whether or not they should start looking at potential monuments that are not too controversial. The joint resolution, with the accompanying exaggerated press, puts the CNMI proposed project in the “too controversial to be considered” column. We will know within one to two weeks if the White House will reject the concept permanently.
It is not our belief that the Legislature passed the resolution with the intent of killing this proposed project, but they may have unknowingly done so because the word choices within the resolution imply total opposition. The headline “Marine Monument Nixed” has also sent a very strong message. The damage may be impossible to undue.
It is our belief that the White House will now likely choose another proposed project over the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument given the lack of leadership support. Pew Environment Group had a charter boat trip planned for June. National Geographic and videographers working with Jean-Michel Cousteau, the son of the famous marine explorer, were going to be on board this investigative trip. The proposed project may be off the table before the trip starts. Therefore, the trip, along with the international exposure that would have accompanied it, has been canceled.
The economic study and the scientific study commissioned by Pew Environment Group will be ready in May, but it may be too late, as again, the proposed project may be off the table in the upcoming weeks.
Let me be clear: the process to create a monument in the CNMI is only in its infancy. If the CNMI wanted to explore this proposed project, there would be public forums, a task force, and plenty of opportunity for local input. Unfortunately, the proposal may be killed before it had a chance to start. The White House will not consider any proposed project that hints of controversy.
The Pew Environment Group wants this proposed project to happen, but only if the people of the CNMI want it. With that said, the only chance this proposed project has of even getting started is for an upwelling of community support and a letter of clarification from the Legislature saying that they would like more information before the proposed project is shelved.
Monday, April 28, 2008
Posted by Bucky Taotaotasi
I submitted the following letter to the editor late last night. I wanted to have it ready in time for yesterday's paper, but it needed a bit more work. There isn't much need to explain the letter. It is pretty self explanatory.