Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Where we stand

The conversation about whether or not the CNMI should create a Mariana Trench Marine National Monument is trickling through our commmunity.

From the onset we have told people that if this is something that they wanted, the Pew Environment Group would be there to facilitate. We can fund studies, put together a proposal, do research, and help in other ways and with other things, such as setting up meetings with Federal officials in Washington, DC.

We have been very clear that there is a timeline associated with the designation of a potential monument. It would have to be created before Bush left office on January 20, 2009.

We've also been very clear that there are other areas under consideration and that the President is likely to choose those areas that are non-controversial and supported by a majority of the people.

On May 13, the Marianas Variety reported that American Samoa Governor Togiola T.A. Tulafono requested President Bush to designate Rose Atoll as a national monument. On May 23, The State newspaper in South Carolina reported that Governor Mark Sanford wrote a letter to President Bush requesting that he use the Antiquities Act to protect the deep water corals living off the coast of his state.

That means that two of the five proposed marine monuments have the support of the local governor. Our governor currently does not support the proposed Mariana Trench Marine National Monument.

Fred Hovnaton wrote a very insightful letter to the editor on May 21 explaining our predicament:
Speaking of the future, just a quick comment on the now comatose, if not dead, underwater federal monument. There was an article in the local paper that basically explains how the CNMI has killed the proposal. Then there was an unrelated article the same week about how American Samoa is sending a proposal to the federal government asking the federal government to create a national monument there. It seems a proposal similar to the one the CNMI has rejected is actually being sought by American Samoa. Two different island governments with similar, desperate economic problems and environmental issues. Both have a similar relationship to the federal government. One seems to be looking for new things to try with the assistance and input from the federal government. The other has a “just say no” approach to the federal government. A person could get the impression that American Samoa is looking for new and creative solutions to current and future problems while the CNMI is fighting to maintain its downward spiral. This is just an impression someone could get.

But in any event, either American Samoa or the CNMI is making a big mistake. Someone has been misled and misinformed, yes lied to and even duped. A national monument is either good for the people of those islands and the environment or it’s not. Only one island government is doing the right thing for the future of its people and islands. The question is which one. Time will tell. Anyone want to place a bet?
According to the NPR story last week, the White House has yet to consider which of the five remaining proposed monuments they will assess. It is my hope that the proposed Mariana Trench Marine National Monument makes it to the assessment stage, but that is yet to be seen.

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