Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Federalization Passes the House

I saw on Jack Mack's blog that Wendy Doromal's blog is reporting that S. 2739 has passed the House of Representatives. It passed 291-117. It now goes to the President's desk for final approval. Both houses have enough votes to override a presidential veto, if there were to be one, so I think we can assume this is a done deal.

We're having an election on November 7. We're going to elect our first delegate to congress. Who do you think should run? Who do you think should win?

Another Round of Press


I forwarded my letter to the editor to the TV station, KSPN, and they did a story. Ken and Ike were interviewed, as were Senate President Pete Reyes and Senator Paul Manglona. John Gourley was interviewed as well.

I think this story did a good job of explaining the position we are in.

I'm glad the Senate clarified their position. Senator Paul is quoted as saying, "The Senate is very much in support of any national monument or national park where we protect our environment, I want to put that on the record."

They just need more information. Well, information is coming. The scientific and the economic reports will be out in May and some people will be coming out to talk to us about Hawaii.

The newspapers had another round of letters today, including the letter that I published on my blog yesterday.

Greg Cruz of Taotao Tano
responded to Jose Cabrera's letter from yesterday. I guess the lesson to be learned here is, "Don't mess with Greg Cruz."

Donald Cohen wrote a letter attacking the Senate, saying they were wasting their time with the Monument. I'd have to disagree. The Monument is going to lead to one of the largest investments the CNMI has seen in a while. The Senate is right on in giving it attention.

Laurie Peterka wrote a letter explaining her motivations behind supporting the Monument.

Chuck Sayon announces that the Mariana Island Nature Alliance has voted to support the Monument. He promises a series of letters explaining their position.

Blogger Meetup Tomorrow

We're having a blogger meetup tomorrow (Wednesdsay) afternoon at 360. We'll meet at 5 PM. There is no agenda for the meetup, we'll just hang out like we used to.

I wonder if Lil Hammerhead will make an appearance?

Rick, I'll bring those pictures of your restaurant taken in 1981.

******
Grand Theft Auto IV comes out...well, today. I may buy the game, but I'll also have to purchase a TV and Playstation 3. Anybody want to loan me some money?

Monday, April 28, 2008

More Local Support

The Marianas Resource Conservation & Development Council's Vice President has written to the Governor to express his support for the proposed "National Park of the Sea."

In my previous post I wrote that the proposal is unlikely to survive the month without a showing of considerable community support. This letter is a step in the right direction.

******
The newspapers have been alive with discussion the last two days.

Jaime Vergara
, sixth grade teacher at San Vicente Elementary, wrote:
I was stunned when our leaders up the hill legislated their fears. I have an image of scared and spineless ghosts (as opposed to the forceful and dynamic personalities they exhibited during the political campaign) shaking in their loafers and pumps before the shadows of the ubiquitous un-homogenous feds (there’s just as much diversity in ’em Wash. DC-based bureaucrats as any!), and rather uncivil to a civic group called Ocean Legacy, not to mention a guy named Angelo and his PEW.

Ruth L. Tighe in her column wrote: “The proposal has been deemed a “no-brainer” by most who are aware of the proposal-with its protection of marine resources, its promise of world-wide attention to the CNMI, its assurance of increased tourism, scientific research, economic investment-all at no cost to the CNMI-what is there to object to?”
Jane Mack wrote her first letter. I'm sure there will be more. She says:
The national marine monument will also produce income, possibly more than the commercial fishing interests presently operating. We can expect to see a tourist center in Saipan. We could revitalize our tourism industry with promotions of eco-tourism. We could see people from around the world seeking to visit this national marine monument. We can also help improve our CNMI image, so tarnished by the lingering imprint of human trafficking of sex workers and sweatshop labor abuses. Instead, we could share our natural beauty with the world and be known as an ecological haven, a “green” bit of paradise.

I support the creation of national marine monument. We need this. We need it now.
Ken Kramer, who has lived on Rota and Saipan, wrote a very long, sarcastic letter. He writes:
And, finally, who needed the Ocean Legacy or the Pew Charitable Trust, anyway? Who needed the annual influx of $10-$20 million dollars of federal funding for the CNMI? What for? Who cares or wanted all those good paying jobs? All those jobs the local people could have had, could have prepared for by studying courses at NMC; they are all gone: Poof! And: "We Don’t Need No Stinkin Visitor’s Center!" It would just bring in more of those troublesome tourists and an annual budget of millions. WESPAC thinks that World Heritage status for the NW Hawaiian Islands would harm it, because it would draw too many tourists. So, the conclusion to be drawn from WESPAC, is that we may not want to create the monument in the Northern Mariana Islands at all, because it might attract too many tourists. The CNMI wouldn’t look good, having all those tourists and researchers coming to Saipan, Tinian, and Rota, spending money, staying in hotels, renting cars, chartering boats, investing in the CNMI, and eating at restaurants. How can that possibly help the CNMI? Are we not doing just fine without all that money? After all, it only represents about 10 percent of the annual CNMI budget. Please, do not count the spin-off value of those dollars.
Wes Bogdan finally had his letter published on the Internet, too.

Brad Doerr
also wrote a letter. He wrote:
I was a bit disappointed by the recent legislative resolution against our proposed marine monument in the Northern Islands. I too was a bit apprehensive when I first heard the proposal back in December of 2007. Years ago, my parents taught me to look twice before crossing the street. Nowadays I look four or five times before I take those first steps. I guess that was good advice since I have never been hit by a car. All of us have learned that lesson. So I understand the Legislature's abrupt reaction and united stand against our proposed marine monument. They have justification. The U.S. government has screwed over everybody. But it has money. The CNMI has received millions of dollars in federal aid over the years. What most people do not know is that the federal government did not propose our marine monument; the Pew Foundation did after a through analysis of possible worldwide sites for a marine monument. PEW did not push this proposal, it simply presented it to the CNMI. Since the legislative resolution against our marine monument, Pew has moved on. The decision to proceed is ours. So after reading this letter, write to the editor, governor, President of the U.S. and voice your opinion. For or against. It is your right. Use it. I do. That is the voice of the people.
******
We also had a negative letter, written by Joe Cabrera. I might as well address this letter point by point.
I’VE been hearing lots about Pew, Angelo V., the National Park and now Taotao Tano says they like the idea of Northern Islands National Monument or whatever it is Mr. Angelo is calling it now. Let me take a load off my shoulders. Why won't anyone say my last name? What's up with that?

This idea of a National Monument being or trying to be imposed on our three northernmost islands sounds like it will benefit only the dive operators and divers. The only mention of benefiting fishermen, regardless of what type of fishing is done, is that the CNMI registered fishing vessels CAN fish up there but we CANNOT take our catch out of the boundaries of the park. No wonder Mr. Angelo can’t get support for his pet project! In your forum, held at Porky’s on Thursday the 24th, it was mentioned that you may get support for your pet project if this restriction can be changed. There are many benefits to fishermen. The Division of Fish of Wildlife has got posters available printed with the benefits of protected areas. If this proposal were to be considered by the White House, there would be a period of public comment. That is a great place to make your suggestions.

You were also asked, “Why are you pushing for a National Park?” Your reply was, “Because its a good idea.” Is that the best you can come up with? You can do better than that! After all, you were educated in the U.S. This is a good idea. I had just finished giving a 45 minute presentation on why I support this project. Were you listening?

You also mentioned money for the CNMI. Your presentation showed millions of dollars. My question is, “How much of that will come to the CNMI?” We are but a speck in Oceania. How much will actually go into local government coffers? The actual percentage that goes to the local government will be worked out by the federal and the local governments working together. Athline Clark from the Hawaiian Monument explains the breakdown in her email which I posted previously.

You also mentioned jobs for locals. Your presentation also showed a number jobs that will be available. Dude, how many locals will qualify for those jobs you showed on your presentation? I say none for a long time until we get educated in those fields of study. The jobs that I listed are similar to the jobs at Division of Fish & Wildlife. Are you saying that nobody at DFW is qualified for their jobs? I don't think so. Who would want all those high paying jobs anyway? Are you suggesting that we only look for low paying jobs for locals?

My advice to you Mr. Angelo is that when you put on a presentation again you better be prepared to answer ALL question put your way. I answered every question I was asked.

Don’t you just hate it when someone tries to shove something down your throat and the best answer they can come up with is, “Oh, I’m not an economist,” or, “Oh, I’m not a scientist.” Prepare yourself to save face. Wisdom is understanding that you don't know everything. Pew Environment Group has commissioned an economic study and a scientific study. Why is it wrong for me to defer to experts? The studies will be available to the public in May.

To Mr.Taotao Tano. When you announced that Taotao Tano is supporting the idea of a National Park in your media release you listed all the benefits. But did you mention the setbacks, the negatives and the restrictions that will be imposed on the local people that your organization is supposedly looking out for? Folks, Mr. Taotao Tano needs to sit down with Mr. John Gourley and study the proposal in detail. Mr. Taotao Tano also has to study the Northern Hawaiian Islands National Park in detail before he agrees to support this Park to the north. Soooo much restrictions in the Hawaiian National Park. Restrictions are a part of protected areas. That is how they are protected from destructive use.

Did you know that the Hawaiian National Park to the north employs Hawaiian islanders (not native Hawaiians) and a few native Hawaiians? What percentage of Hawaiians are native Hawaiians? It is not very high. I think the Superintendent is native, so at least the Monument is heading by someone of indigenous heritage.

Did you know that the Hawaiian fishermen were bought out and supposedly received millions? NOT! And did you know that there is NO fishing there anymore? Completely outlawed! Mr. Taotao Tano, is this what you want for our future generations? Your organization is supposed to be advocating indigenous rights and culture. You are not doing that! So please do not criticize Tina S. because you and your organization are no better. You were a no-show at Porky’s, too. There is fishing going on in the Hawaiian Monument right now. There were exactly eight fishing vessels permitted to be in the area before it was declared a Monument. After the Monument was designated, they were given 5 more years to fish. At the end of five years, their boats will be purchased at fair market value.

Did you know that there is a fledgling company here and on Rota that is trying to establish a fishery in the CNMI? They have spent millions already starting the business. Well, if Pew, the National Park and Mr. Angelo get their way, this company will shut down and take their business elsewhere. Another loss in revenue for our broke government. Think about it! The ocean is a big place. There are plenty of places to fish. If the business goes out of business, it won't be because of the Monument. It will be because of gas prices and lack of fish. It is my belief that the revenue from the Monument will be greater than the revenue from fishing. The economic study will settle this.

To the Senate: A big thank you for not entertaining the National Park issue. It only stands to benefit a certain few. Conservation as a rule benefits everyone. The Monument will benefit local fishermen because it will keep foreign fishing vessels out of our northern waters.

JOE CABRERA
Dandan, Saipan

Monumental Loss

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.
Dear Editor:

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.

President Bush Monument ProposalsThe 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.

Angelo Villagomez
Fina Sisu

We Lost?

Hear us roar: My teammates celebrate moments after Steve McKagan (#4) scored a tying goal to force an overtime. Photo credit: Wes Bogdan.
We lost the game 3-2. They scored, then we scored to tie it up. Then they scored again to end the half at 2-1. We scored again in the second half, to force an overtime. The first overtime went scoreless, but Guam scored in the last 30 seconds of the second overtime to win the game.

Doesn't matter.

We can compete and did compete with a FIFA ranked team. I'm a Boston Red Sox fan. There is always next year.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Paying Dividends

Saipan Flame Tree BlossomThe very first flame tree that Beautify CNMI planted is sprouting blossoms this year. This and the other trees that we have planted over the last two years will add to our island beauty for years to come. I'm thankful to have been able to be a part of this movement.

Happy Earth Week.

Game Day

CNMI Womens National Soccer Team Beats GuamThe women put on one hell of a show yesterday by stuffing Guam 0-0. Guam is a FIFA ranked team. I think they are #75 in the world. Yesterday they couldn't beat a rag tag bunch of island girls.

Go CNMI!

Our game is in about 6 hours. I won't be starting this game, but I should get a few minutes towards the end of the game to rip stuff up. I really want to win this game.

Friday, April 25, 2008

2008 CNMI Men's National Team

CNMI Mens SoccerHere we are. The game is Sunday at 3 PM at Ada Field. Come out and cheer #9 (that's me).

Guam, are you ready?


Angelo VillagomezIs it time to play yet?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Internet is on Fire

The House and Senate passed a resolution on the proposed "National Park of the Sea." It's my first resolution. Ever.

Not everyone agrees with what they have done and the Internet is abuzz with commentary.

Harry Blalock, local radio station manager and avid diver writes:
And that brings me to the other monumental show of ignorance recently by this self-important body. The House of Representatives voted Thursday by a vote of 17-3 approving a resolution asking President Bush not to unilaterally declare a marine sanctuary around the islands of Uracas, Maug and Asuncion. The 3 who voted against the resolution were Representatives Tina Sablan, Heinz Hofschneider and Edward Salas. The Senate unanimously adopted the resolution earlier in the week. I realize there are people on both sides of this debate and issue, but honestly those who have come out against it have motives that are more than a little suspect, and their track records are less than stellar when it comes to the environment. I believe it is always a mistake though to take sides on an issue before thoroughly familiarizing yourself with it. After all, how can you vote on something if you haven’t bothered to educate yourself on it? Do you really think that reading a few letters to the editor in the newspaper qualifies you as being properly educated? Did the lawmakers bother to actually find out how the public actually feels about this proposed marine sanctuary? Did they hold any public hearings on the matter before issuing their resolution? Or do they think they have some kind of ESP that informs them automatically what the majority of their constituency thinks about any particular matter at any given time? Again, these supposed “representatives” of the people decided they already knew what you wanted and thought, and therefore they didn’t need to ask you, they would just go ahead and speak for you, whether it represented how you truly felt or not. In my mind the most prudent thing to do at this point would have been to hold public hearings, do some more investigation into exactly what this would mean for the CNMI, and maybe find out how the marine sanctuary in the northern Hawaiian Islands has been working out.
Tami Hunter, mother of three and business manager, writes:
The front pages of today's papers made me sick to my stomach!!!! "Senate says no to national monument proposal". "Marine Monument Nixed"....Why? because according to the Senate, the majority of local people will not support the proposal...WTF!!!!!!!!!!!! HOW WOULD THEY KNOW???? DID ANY OF THEM EVER ASK THE LOCAL PEOPLE HOW WE FEEL???? I'M A "LOCAL PEOPLE" AND I LOVE THE IDEA! HAVE ANY OF THEM BEEN READING THE LETTERS OF SUPPORT TO THE EDITOR???? OR ATTENDING ANY OF THE PRESENTATIONS THAT ANGELO HAS BEEN GIVING????????? ARGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!
Lil Hammerhead, anonymous blogger than seems to have lived here for a very long time, writes:

I'm not going to go on and on about the Marine Monument idea. It's a great idea, and I've yet to meet anyone in the public who doesn't think it is a great idea.
Wes Bogdan, long time CNMI attorney (sorry, no link, but it was in the Variety), writes:
The opportunity to create a NMI Marine National Monument (Pew Monument) is a brilliant idea, a gift from heaven at an exceptionally dark moment in time for the CNMI. It is hard to imagine how anyone could possibly be against it. For starters, the creation of such a monument would instantly begin changing the world’s perception of Saipan from a alien sweat-shop full of prostitutes and non-resident workers to world class eco-friendly tourist destination. A place where we care about our planet. The arguments against the Pew Monument which have appeared in letters to the editor in your paper and which have been made by some government officials in reporter’s articles miss the point. And this is the point: Humans and their activities are slowly killing the world we live in and the CNMI has been presented with a golden opportunity to save a tiny part of the planet. Saving any part of the planet that we can is the right thing to do period. All the silly arguments made against this proposal pertaining to who gets to manage (exploit) the resources found in and around the islands in the future are part of the problem–not the solution.
The actual resolution, which is negative in tone, actually describes what has to happen for the Legislature to support this initiative. They want more information and hard numbers, so we've been meeting on a daily basis with people in the community and we've commissioned a scientific and an economic report. Both reports will be available in May.

******
The bloggers just won't quit!

Rick, an environmentalist living in San Francisco I have never met, gives a point by point analysis and finishes with:
But we're not talking about a pie-in-the-sky, unproven approach here. It's an ambitious vision based on already working exemplars. Consultants and expertise are just neighbor island groups away. And it creates a tangible, realistic, and inspirational goal for stakeholders--young and old, elected and electorate--to rally around.
Then Mike Tripp, pleasantly polite father of two, writes:
Thanks to all those who came out to hear the facts, to debate the issues and to discuss the concept. I know it is controversial on a number of fronts but, keeping an open mind and becoming informed rather than rejecting the idea all together because a few think it is a bad idea or have their own agendas will do no one any good.

I, for one, am like many of these people. I'm getting to know the facts and hear both sides of the issue from those who care. Once I feel I have the necessary answers to my own questions I'll weigh in on the matter more thoroughly.

To do anything less is just plain irresponsible!
******
The fire continues...

Mark Powell, a blogging scientist in the mainland, writes:
Conservationists have responded to the loss of natural refuges by asking for man-made refuges, places closed to some or all fishing. It's a common sense concept championed by smart fishermen in rivers and lakes, and some courageous ocean fishing leaders. But, sadly, most ocean fishermen have chosen to fight rather than join the refuge effort. Angelo over at Saipan Blog reports the sad news that refuges won't happen right now in the Mariana Islands, and Rick at Malaria, Bed Bugs, Sea Lice and Sunsets points out a possibly nefarious effort by fishing interests to stop these refuges.
CR McClain, contributor to Deep Sea News, a science blog with a technorati score about 100 times higher than mine, writes:
In the backass wisdom that is the CNMI Legislature, they have adopted a resolution opposing the proposed Northern Islands Marine National Monument. It looks like the logo "You'll Love How Deep We Go" will not see daylight. The reasons for the blockage ranges from stupid to idiotic to just plane asinine.
I feel it is important to point out that none of these blogs are against the idea of a monument. I would post it if somebody put it up, but not a single blogger has come out against it, whether living in the CNMI or anywhere else in the world.

With that said, I'm not responsible for what the other bloggers write. I'm just reposting a few snippets to give an idea of the tone of their post. If you want to read each post, just click on the link.

******
The newspapers were very one sided in their reporting that "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," they failed to mention that it was immediately followed with "at this time and feels that study, discussion, and deliberation is necessary before any further action is taken."

Again, just like the governor's original letter, the phrase "at this time" is used.

However, without a strong showing of local support, the White House will probably take the proposal off the table and this opportunity for jobs, federal funds, a visitors center, years of positive international attention, and increased reserach, training, and education, not to mention the chance to protect our islands and our waters for generations to come, will simply sail away.

******
Jane Mack adds:
For all of you who voted against the marine national monument, you've lost my support. For some, I'm not in your district, so JJCamacho, feel free to ignore me. Don't bother smiling at me next time. Ralph Torres, you have a beautiful family. Don't mind my tears as I think how your children and future grandchildren will suffer for an ocean that you failed to protect. For those who never had my support, enjoy whatever those corrupting influences are putting in your pocket. You can't take it with you when you die.
I am working on a response to the resolution. Hopefully I can get it in Tuesday's newspaper.

Ken Kramer Strikes Back

Ken Kramer had another letter to the editor published in the newspaper today.
Letter to the Editor: Marine monument

ONE of the concerns being raised about the proposed “Marianas Trench Marine Monument” is that it would preclude an underwater mining industry one hundred years down the road.

Let’s do some math: The total area of the proposed “National Park of the Sea” is about 115,000 square miles, while the world’s oceans cover over 138,000,000 (138 million) square miles. 115,000 divided by 138,000,000 equals 0.08 percent of the world’s oceans.

The area of ocean contained in the proposed protected area, which is over 300 miles north of Saipan, encompasses less than one tenth of one percent of the ocean floor.

The odds are not that great (based on the area of the world’s oceans) that the proposed monument area is going to be the site of some dubious valuable mineral resources or that these alleged minerals, if present, would be the most likely to be mined first, or within the next few decades. Need I mention pozzolan?

Deep sea mining is in its infancy and with the exception of diamond mining in shallow waters off Namibia, no mining at any depth is commercially producing in the world today, never mind a mining industry in the deepest part of the ocean, hundreds of miles away from the nearest port.

Then, if the technology were to be finally developed, mining will likely start first in developing countries with lax environmental laws, not in waters under United States jurisdiction. American environmental laws would not allow the level of destruction, contamination, and sedimentation that a developing country would allow, making it cheaper to mine in developing countries. Is the devastation of the marine environment what mining proponents are advocating?

Finally, this issue still ignores the fact that the CNMI already tried to sue the federal government for the mineral rights and lost. The CNMI does not control a single square inch of the submerged lands around our islands. I know that this is a hard pill for some to swallow, but it is true. See: United States (U.S.) District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands: Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands v. United States of America, No. 99-0028 (Aug. 7, 2003).

However, as I explained in my previous letter to the editor, designating a monument would give the CNMI co-management over our waters for the first time in our history.

The monument will create jobs, add to government coffers, bring unprecedented worldwide positive attention, lead to the building of a visitors center on Saipan, Tinian, or Rota, will keep illegal foreign fishing vessels out of our waters, and most importantly, the last remaining wilderness in the Marianas will remain wild. Our great grand children will always have that marine sanctuary to know what these islands were like before concrete, poker parlors, and midterm elections became a way of life in the CNMI.

KEN KRAMER
Marianas RC&D Coordinator

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Marianas Dive Meeting

Marianas Dive PresentationLast night I presented the proposal for a "National Park of the Sea" to Marianas Dive at Porky's Bar. The place was packed with hardly an empty seat to be had.

In addition to divers, a large contingent of fishermen were there, including Jim Davies, who I personally invited. After I gave the presentation we had a spirited discussion. I explained my understanding of monuments to the best of my ability. I talked about there being an opportunity to participate in the process. I told them that local livelihoods and needs would be taken into consideration.

Discussion is good. It helps me get a feel for people's support. For example, one of the fishermen from last night admitted that he supports the idea, he just wants his concerns to be addressed.

A gentleman from Hawaii named Phil Westbrook was there. He got pretty heated when I talked about the sunset clause for the existing 8 vessels and how those boats were going to be bought out at the end of five years. He argued that he had lobster fisherman friends who didn't get paid when the monument was created, but I pointed out that the lobster fishery was closed years before by court order. The fishery was mismanaged by WESPAC and there are no more lobster.

He told me I was wrong. I told him I'd look it up. I was right.

John Gourley was there, too. This was his fourth time attending a presentation. He must really be in support!

Just kidding.

John was there to harp on the co-management agreement. Again. His argument is basically, "I don't trust the Federal government."

Well, the Force was with me this morning, because this article was published in the Honolulu Advertiser this morning:
Many ideas for Hawaii marine preserve
It's not too late to have your say on how to run vast marine monument

By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer

More than 57,000 comments so far have resulted in a preliminary plan to manage the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, and government officials want even more input on how to run the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands over the next 15 years.

The four-volume, 1,200-page draft of the management plan is so massive that Gov. Linda Lingle joked yesterday that she probably won't read it herself and will leave the details to the experts.

But at a Washington Place ceremony yesterday attended by Lynn Scarlett, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, and retired Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher Jr., NOAA administrator, Lingle encouraged citizens to send even more input on the management plan for the country's largest protected marine area, which spans nearly 140,000 square miles.

William Aila served on the monument's advisory council and the Native Hawaiian advisory panel to the advisory council and attended yesterday's ceremony. He likes what he's seen so far since President Bush designated the area a marine national monument in 2006.

Aila agrees with most of the rules, such as requiring Native Hawaiians who follow traditional gathering practices to consume harvested foods within the monument. And having U.S. Fish and Wildlife personnel escort cultural practitioners lets both sides better understand each other's points of view, Aila said.

But Aila hopes the final management plan allows for traditional exceptions, such as continuing to allow a few dozen people from Ni'ihau to bring salt, bird feathers and fish out of the monument and back to family on Ni'ihau and Kaua'i as they have for generations.

"Salt is plentiful in the main Hawaiian Islands," Aila said. "But salt from special places has mana."

"The rules that are in place are good," Aila said, "but there is room to make exceptions in special cases."

The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are home to more than 7,000 marine species, a quarter of which are found nowhere else. The islands are the primary habitat for critically endangered Hawaiian monk seals and green sea turtles, and thousands of sea birds and plant species.

The state of Hawai'i, the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Commerce are responsible for managing the monument in accordance with the presidential proclamation that established it.

Lingle concluded yesterday's ceremony by thanking the dozens of people in the audience who fought for the Papahanaumo-kuakea Marine National Monument.

"Had you not stuck with it, government on its own would not have done this. I'm confident of that," Lingle said. [emphasis mine]
This article confirms a lot of what I have been saying about Papahanaumokuakea in my presentations.

There is co-management.

There is an on-going process with lots of input from the community.

It is supported by the Native Hawaiian community.

It allows for traditional cultural practices.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Oreo Kenobi

Oreo Kenobi and Obiwan ChamaoleGus sent me this picture of Oreo. One of these days I'll get tired of posting pictures of my dog.

Price of Gas Hurting Fishermen


The price of gas on Saipan is $4.32. That is nuts. The price of fish hasn't gone up in 10 years.

The price of fish has to go up.

Mariana Trench update

If you didn't gleam it from my last post, I'll be making the "National Park of the Sea" presentation to Marianas Dive tonight at Porky's around 7:30 PM. I am the second of two speakers. Mike Tripp has more info on his blog.

There has been more support for the proposed park online and in the newspapers.

Jaime Vergara
wrote:
I read with bewilderment John Gourley’s opposition to the NMI Marine National Monument (PEW Monument) being proposed by the PEW Foundation. To be sure, his opposition is based on his long-term involvement in the marine science and environmental regulatory fields and his personal belief in supporting sustainable fisheries programs. But that might precisely be the point: sustainable fisheries understood simple as profit bottom line economics and coupled by a mistaken notion of stewardship based on paper sovereignty, and one can understand where he is coming from. Who cares about the transmigration patterns of fish life and the depleted ocean stock now prevailing? How do we audit the debit inflicted on Mother Nature’s processes now that we have overfished the seas?
Then local elementary school principal Boni Reyes, mother of four, wrote:
I am enthralled with the thought of a sanctuary. Sanctuary. Say it with me. A hiding place. A place of refuge. I can't remember how many times I've needed safe harbor. There were countless times I found my solace near the water's edge, looking out into our horizon, knowing that I was inextricably tied to it.

It's more than heritage or culture.
The ocean defines us.
It is more than our responsibility to care about it.
Out of respect and awe, we must protect it.
Finally, let's not forget Tami Hunter. She wrote:
If you grew up in Saipan, if you have been here for any length of time, you can see the enormous changes that have taken place in our lagoons as well as in the oceans surrounding our islands. Waters that were once abundant with fish, sea urchins, octopus, and clams are now stripped of many of these things. We desperately need CONSERVATION measures that are in place and more importantly ENFORCED! And even though the "National Park of the Sea" will be hundreds of miles away from Saipan, if we can conserve that area of our island chain for future generations, I believe we are taking a HUGE step in the right direction. The publicity we will receive from having a "National Park", the jobs that will be created, the boost to the economy, all that is just icing on the cake, the cake itself is CONSERVATION!
I'll give more updates at the meeting, including what we have in store for the next two months. If you can't make the meeting, please contact me and we can set something up so that you can see the presentation. I should be done traveling for the next few weeks, although I would like to get over to Tinian or Rota for a few days.

An Open Letter to Mr. Jim Davies

Dear Jim,

First and foremost, I would like to thank you for your support of Beautify CNMI in the past. It was great of you to participate in our cleanup of Paupau Beach all those months ago and I've seen you wearing your Beautify CNMI! t-shirt proudly in the community.

The reason I'm writing this is that I read your letter to the editor published in today's Marianas Variety, and I must say, you have been grossly misinformed.

Why don't you come to the Marianas Dive meeting tonight at Porky's? I'll be presenting the actual proposal for the Marianas Trench Marine Monument. You can see the proposal and ask any questions you might have.

No hard feelings.

Some people have been lying to you and I think you deserve to hear the truth.

Hope to see you later tonight,

Angelo

******
Thanks for coming to the meeting, Jim.

2008 Marianas Cup

2008 Marianas CupThis Sunday the Northern Mariana Islands national football team will suit up for a game against our neighbors to the south, Guam. The game starts at 3 PM at Ada Field in Susupe.

Please come out and cheer for #9.

Angelo Villagomez CNMI Football

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Saipan's Sexiest Male Dog Model


Have you seen the latest issue of Hafa Adai magazine? Oreo is featured in it. Taking into consideration his past work with PTI, he's making quite a splash in the male dog modeling world.

Pineapple Ball Pictures

I decided last minute to go to the Pineapple Ball at the Hyatt.

The recipient of the funds raised this year was MINA, so I sort of felt obliged.

Although I didn't register for the auction, I still manged to buy two things. I bought a $150 gift certificate for a travel agency and a travel DVD player for $75 (what a deal!) and I bought a one night package at the Hyatt's new spa for $350 (kind of expensive, but valued at $700!)

What can I say, Robert Torres is a great auctioneer?

I'm going to give the spa package to my Mom and Jim when they visit in June. I figure I'll let them experience about two weeks of island life, then let them spend the night at the Hyatt while I watch my brother and sister.

Here are a few pictures:

Jack Sablan Angelo Villagomez Fran CastroTony Cabrera and Chuck SayonRobert Torres Auction DudeTania Chong Dexter Mendiola
The cocktail party at the Hyatt ended right around 10 PM. Some people (like me) went to Godfather's afterwards.

Ian Catlett and Angelo VillagomezGeorge Hasselhoff Male ModelInsane Thai Party GirlsGodfathers Bar SaipanAnd yes, that is George Hasselback, Saipan Male Model, singing in a tuxedo.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Blog Candy I

Tamara introduced me to the concept of blog candy.

Basically a blogger offers up a free gift for commenters to win. In order to win, other bloggers have to leave a comment and then link back to the contest on their own blogs. The blogger hosting the blog candy contest then selects a winner.

I like the idea, so I'm going to make blog candy a feature of the Saipan Blog.

So for my first blog candy contest, I'm asking bloggers to write about why they support the proposed "National Park of the Sea" for the area encompassing the Mariana Trench and the islands of Maug, Asuncion, and Uracas. The post must have a link back to this post. Leave a comment on this blog after you post your reason on your blog.

The prize will be a copy of The Unnatural History of the Sea by Callum Roberts and a copy of the latest issue of MP magazine. Here is a short review of the book:
Humanity can make short work of the oceans’ creatures. In 1741, hungry explorers discovered herds of Steller’s sea cow in the Bering Strait, and in less than thirty years, the amiable beast had been harpooned into extinction. It’s a classic story, but a key fact is often omitted. Bering Island was the last redoubt of a species that had been decimated by hunting and habitat loss years before the explorers set sail.

As Callum M. Roberts reveals in The Unnatural History of the Sea, the oceans’ bounty didn’t disappear overnight. While today’s fishing industry is ruthlessly efficient, intense exploitation began not in the modern era, or even with the dawn of industrialization, but in the eleventh century in medieval Europe. Roberts explores this long and colorful history of commercial fishing, taking readers around the world and through the centuries to witness the transformation of the seas.

Drawing on firsthand accounts of early explorers, pirates, merchants, fishers, and travelers, the book recreates the oceans of the past: waters teeming with whales, sea lions, sea otters, turtles, and giant fish. The abundance of marine life described by fifteenth century seafarers is almost unimaginable today, but Roberts both brings it alive and artfully traces its depletion. Collapsing fisheries, he shows, are simply the latest chapter in a long history of unfettered commercialization of the seas.

The story does not end with an empty ocean. Instead, Roberts describes how we might restore the splendor and prosperity of the seas through smarter management of our resources and some simple restraint. From the coasts of Florida to New Zealand, marine reserves have fostered spectacular recovery of plants and animals to levels not seen in a century. They prove that history need not repeat itself: we can leave the oceans richer than we found them.
This contest will end on Earth Day at midnight EST (that is 2 PM Chamorro Standard Time the following day).

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Next Retreat: Pohnpei!

10th MICThe 10th MIC retreat is over and I'm on my way back to Saipan. I've got soccer practice in a few hours. Officials from AFC will be there to watch us.

I'd better take a nap first.

Dang, I'm tired.

Blackout Schedule

According to Jane Mack, Saipan will be without power on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 6 AM to 6 PM. I accept no responsibility for this rumor mongering, I'm just repeating what I read on another blog.

******
Harry Blalock says the rumors are false.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Oreo should poop on my floor

The results are in. 106 voters responded to the question, "EJ just moved to Korea. What should Angelo and EJ do?"

The results are:

46.2% Oreo should poop on Angelo's floor
34.9% EJ should move back to Saipan
18.9% Angelo should move to Korea

It's a small world after all

My roommate at the 10th MIC Retreat, Curtis Graham, went to college at Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.

My Mom was born in Worcester and we lived there for 10 years. My little league, Maranville Little League, looked up at the hill on which College of the Holy Cross sits.

Support from Ignacio Cabrera

Many benefits from national monument

There is a lot of talk in the community about the Pew Environmental Group and their proposal to create a "National Park of the Sea." I have seen the presentation and as an indigenous fisherman, a father, and as someone who cares deeply about our islands, I can say that I fully support this project.

The CNMI has a long history of working with the Federal government on conservation issues. I know this because I spent my government career working with the Division of Environmental Quality, ultimately attaining the position of Director.

DEQ, CRM, and DFW are all funded by the federal government, but locally administered. Just drive by the DEQ office in Gualo Rai and count the number of trucks marked with "Federal Funded" on the door.

The CNMI has an opportunity to extend the protections granted to Uracus, Maug, and Asuncion by our Constitution to the waters surrounding those islands, most likely administered by locals and paid for with Federal dollars.

This is a win-win situation for our people and should be a no-brainer.

The closest island within the proposed marine park is over 300 miles away from Saipan. Not to say that some of us have never been up that far, but Chamorros and Carolinians are not going there regularly to fish. It is too far, too dangerous, and gas is just too expensive.

The only boats fishing there are illegal fishing boats from other Asian countries. The increased enforcement that would follow the creation of the park would help deter the illegal taking of our fish.

I encourage the people of the CNMI to look into this proposal. After getting all the facts, I suspect that most people will recognize that the proposed "Mariana Trench Marine Monument" will bring many benefits to the CNMI.

Ignacio V. Cabrera
Papago

Support from Ken Kramer

In defense of the national park proposal

I read John Gourley’s recent letters to the editor concerning the proposed "National Park of the Sea" and I feel that it is necessary to correct one of Mr. Gourley’s many misrepresentations on his personal campaign of misinformation.

The proposed park in the CNMI is modeled after the recently created Papahânaumokuâkea Marine Monument recently created in Hawaii. It is now known as one of the new seven wonders of the natural world.

Mr. Gourley was there at a presentation of the PEW proposal for the establishment of a marine monument in the top three northern islands of the CNMI at the Saipan Chamber of Commerce office. I also attended and I watched Angelo Villagomez hand Mr. Gourley a copy of the Memorandum of Agreement between the Federal government and the State of Hawaii concerning the management of Papahânaumokuâkea. The MOA outlines how the Federal government and the State government are to co-manage the area.

The MOA gives the state of Hawaii co-management over the waters from 0-50 miles. Before the MOA, the state of Hawaii managed from 0-3 miles. The state gained an extra 47 miles with the co-management agreement.

Under Pew’s current proposal, the CNMI would gain co-management over the waters from 0-200 miles. I understand this is a politically sensitive issue, but according to the 9th Circuit (and Mr. Gourley’s letter), we currently control nothing. We stand to gain 200 miles under a co-management agreement. The management details, as explained by Angelo, for the current monument would be worked out between the CNMI and the Federal government. As I understand it, the CNMI will also be provided with the means to patrol its own waters for the very first time. Wow!

I have provided just one correction to just one of Mr. Gourley’s misrepresentations. I encourage you to visit Jane Mack’s blog at http://saipanwriter.blogspot.com for a much more thorough breakdown of his letter.

I do not know why he opposes the PEW proposal. First, it does no harm; and will, if it goes through, be of great benefit to the people of the CNMI. The opportunity cost of letting this proposal slide, at a time in the CNMI history, when we need to take advantage of every great opportunity, would be a tragedy.

Ken Kramer
Fina Sisu

Big Game in One Week...and a half

CNMI Saipan Mens SoccerBrad Ruszala writes:
In less than two weeks, the CNMI Men's National Football Team will defend its home pitch in an effort to do what last year's squad was unable to accomplish by beating Guam on Saipan.

Last year, football fans from across the world watched as the home team came within one goal of beating the FIFA-ranked Guamanians, as the visitors escaped with a 3-2 victory at the Oleai Sports Complex. A week later, the men from Saipan were unable to find similar success against their heavily favored opponents abroad, as Guam dismantled the CNMI at home, 9-0, in the rematch.

Aside from pleasing their fan faithful at Harmon Field, the Guamanians also drew first blood in the Inaugural Marianas Cup. This month's match will mark the second time the regional rivals vie for the giant perpetual trophy, and several new faces will don the home team's uniforms on Sunday, April 27, at the OSC.

Team CNMI will be without 11 of players that filled out its roster in 2007, as Bruce Berline, Vince Stravino, Wesley Bogdan, Mike Hall, Aaron Lewis, Chris Nelson, Mark McDonald, Kyle Cabael, Jonathan Mafnas, Tyce Mister and former captain Yosh Gabaldon have either opted out of the grueling national schedule or will be unavailable for this month's match.

The CNMI still has a core of players who remember the bitter pill that Guam served up on Harmon Field, as Ben Wood, Dale Roberts, Michael Thomas, Brad Ruszala, Lucas Knecht, David Dueñas, Chris Leon Guerrero, Peter Houk, and Angelo Villagomez return to the Blue Ayuyus with manager John Ravell.

Filling the vacancies left by last year's history-makers was no easy task, but a crowd of new faces survived the training and evaluation process, and is now ready to officially don the blue and white for the first time. Among the rookies added to the 2008 lineup are Peter Loken, Steve McKagan, Dan Westphal, Joe Miller, Choi Yong Woon, Norman Camacho, and Nick Swain.

Change has been the theme to this year's team, as Team CNMI made changes at the top with the departure of last year's coach, Jeff “Ziggy” Korytoski, who has since moved back to the Mainland. His replacement, Jason Higgins, will also miss match, as he and the Northern Mariana Islands Football Association quietly parted ways two months ago.

Since then, Swain has taken the reigns as player/coach for the local squad, and NMIFA officials regard the former Pacific Islands Club Clubmate as a magnificent find who possesses the talent to direct his teammates both on and off the field.
I have missed so much practice due to my conferences in Chuuk and now Guam and with work back on Saipan, that I probably won't play in the game. I'm expecting to suit up and and watch my team from the bench as they take us to victory. Should I get the call to play, I'll be ready, but there are others on the team more deserving than me.

UFO Found in Laulau Bay

Harry Blalock has made an out of this galaxy find in Laulau Bay, an ancient civilization sought for centuries by people living in their parents' basements.

Does Lemuria lie just off the coast of Saipan, perhaps deep inside the Mariana Trench? Perhaps.

We'll have to ask the giant worms who leave behind nothing but giant piles of worm poop.

(I wish I had made this stuff up on my own.)

Breakout Groups

I'm not just killing snakes in Guam, I'm also attending a conference.

Yesterday morning we had some breakout sessions to work on issues that need addressing region wide. This was a great opportunity to get input from conservationists from all over Micronesia on issues facing us in our homes.

My group discussed the reasons behind anti-protected area sentiment. Can you guess what some of those reasons are?

I don't have a picture of my group, but here are some pictures of the other groups from yesterday morning:

Breakout Group 1: Vanessa Fread, Project Manager of Yap CAP (Yap), Dr. Tholman Alik, Executive Director of YELA (Kosrae), Albon Ishoda, Coordinator of IMRM (Marshalls), Charles Chieng, Executive Director of Yap CAP (Yap), Kathy Kesolei from Palau, and Fabian Iyar, Executive Director of PICRC (Palau). I can't really tell because their faces are blocked, but I think Wayne Andrew, Project Manager of Helen Reef (Palau), and Takubu Teroroko, Director of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (Kiribati), are in the picture, too.

Breakout Group 2: Steve Why, Executive Director of MICS (Marshalls), Tiare Holm, Executive Director of PCS (Palau), Tina Filmed, Executive Director of Yap EPA (Yap), Ada Eledui, Director of Conservation & Law Enforcement in Koror (Palau), Patterson Shed, Executive Director of CSP (Pohnpei), Trina Leberer from TNC (Guam), David from the Marshalls, Fran Castro from MINA (Saipan), Kathleen Herman from NOAA (Saipan), and Curtis Graham, Project Manager of CCS (Chuuk).

Breakout Group 3: Cheryl Calaustro, from Guam, Maryanne Teregeyo from Saipan, Esther Gumataotao from Guam, Mary Rose Nakayama from Chuuk, and Lorrie Johnson-Asher from Pohnpei.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Angelo Villagomez: Snake Killer

The entire MIC membership was invited to go on a "snake walk" with USDA last night. Out of the 30 people attending our conference, can you guess how many people went?

4.

Apparently tree huggers don't like snakes.

Not me.

I was totally stoked to go on this "snake walk." Sure, meeting conservation leaders from across the region, staying in a fancy hotel, and eating at TGI Friday's is exciting...but not compared to catching Brown tree snakes!

I wouldn't miss this night for the world.

John and Larry: Our guides from USDA.
Our guides from USDA, John and Larry, met us in the Marriott lobby as night fell and we piled into the USDA snake trucks.

This wasn't so much a "snake walk" as it was an "air-conditioned, snake ride." It really felt like we were on some reality show adventure tour.

The trucks are equipped with a movable flood light that the USDA guys use to spot snakes crawling along fences. We didn't find anything on our first drive by, but at the power sub station off of Marine Drive, I spotted something moving in one of the traps.

Steve Why MICS
Can you see me?: Steve Why, Executive Director of Marshall Islands Conservation Society, takes a peek at a Brown tree snake in a cage.
It was a snake!

I was ready to climb the fence to get to the other side, but John informed me that the sub station employees checked the cages every other day for snakes. They'd get this guy in the morning.

Oh well.

There were about five more snakes in the cages ringing the substation, but we just left them there for someone else to collect.

After the sub station we drove to one of the military housing developments, I forget the name.

Our truck turned right and went through the complex counterclockwise, while the other truck, carrying Steve Why from the Marshalls and Kathleen Herman from Saipan, turned left.

Highway 1: Fences are the best place to find Brown tree snakes. Snakes are attracted to the large number of lizards and insects on the fence.
This place was Brown tree snake central. We saw several snakes already trapped in cages, then after about 15 minutes of spotting along the fence, we found one.

Caught: We only found one Brown tree snake along the fence, although we saw about 20 already trapped in cages.
This guy wasn't too big, probably only 2-3 feet. He was just slithering across the top of the fence looking for a scooby snack.

Come here, buddy: John used thick gloves and a pole to take the snake off the fence.
Our guide, John, was great. He let us take several pictures before finally trapping the little bird killer.

He broke out some thick gloves and a snake pole and caught him. He made it look so easy.

What's that smell?: As soon as you catch the snakes they start pissing all over you. The are nasty little creatures.
After catching the snake, John let Alyssa and me handle the snake.

Gross.

They are nasty, smelly little creatures. I can't imagine anyone wanting to eat one of these. No wonder they are at the top of the food chain.

Smile!: Alyssa shows off the biggest snake of the night. Who cares if she's hurting it? It's destined for destruction.
After catching that first snake, we circled around until we met up with the other truck.

They had four snakes to our one!

A Good Night's Work: Steve and Kathleen's team caught four snakes, while Allysa and I only caught one.
John and Larry took the biggest snake, which was about 4-5 feel long, out of the bag and let us examine it.

The snakes are really amazing.

I hope they all die.

Snake Killers: Angelo and Alyssa with a bag of snakes.
Up until last night I had never seen a Brown tree snake in the wild. Now I've seen over 20 and handled several.

It was a great experience and I recommend you experience a "snake walk" if you get the chance, but I don't think I ever need to do this again.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Jun Saves the Day


Saipan's newest musical sensation made his debut at the Beautify CNMI/HANMI fundraising concert with Jake Shimabukuro. Thanks to Gus for putting the video on Youtube.

Monday Morning Fun Reads

John Gourley, a man who...OK, I'll be nice, wrote a little letter to the editor on Friday raising his concerns about the proposed "National Park of the Sea."

I believe I've already addressed Mr. Gourley's concerns at the numerous presentations he's attended (he's up to three now). I've even given him documentation proving that the tales he spins are not true.

I was going to write an analysis of his letter, but now there is no need since Jane Mack and Lil Hammerhead went ahead and did it for me.
******

Jane also responded to Gourley's second letter.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

WESPAC: Under Investigation

What is WESPAC hiding?

According to the Honolulu Advertiser, "Peter Young, a council member and the former head of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, said he was never provided the detailed budgets he repeatedly asked for until he filed a Freedom of Information Act request."

What's up with that? I've seen some of the stories in the paper about WESPAC's upcoming Federal investigation, but what is the real reason behind the investigation? Why are they being investigated?

After sharing my inquisitiveness with local investigative reporter Brad Ruszala, he sent me this link.

Interesting.

The website hasn't been updated to include the latest round of accusations against WESPAC, but it does shed some light on some of their alleged illegal activities.

According to the website:
On March 13, 2007, Keiko Bonk, Campaign Director for the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Network filed a written complaint with the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council (Wespac) Chair, Sean Martin shortly after being told to leave a public meeting of a clandestine group of "certain fishermen" which was taking place "directly across the hall" from the 137th meeting of Wespac. Later, Bonk learned that the meeting in question, held in a Wespac paid-for conference room with members who had been flown in with Wespac paid-for tickets, was held to drum up support for three bills working their way through the Hawai`i State Legislature. Bonk stepped back across the hall and during a moment reserved for public comment, asked the full Wespac Council if they were aware of Federal Wespac monies being spent to lobby the Hawai`i State legislature. Bonk's complaint asking the official to investigate exactly what Wespac staff were doing and to assure the public it would never happen again went unanswered.
Who knew that using taxpayer money to lobby was illegal?

The Guam Blog

Tumon Bay Marriott GuamI'm in Guam for the next week for the 10th Micronesians in Island Conservation Retreat. This is my second MIC retreat. My first retreat was in Majuro last June.

This time around I'm not such a noob. I'm actually on the Steering Committee, which means I get to facilitate a few of the workshops.

I'll write more about the retreat as the week progresses, but I do want to make sure that everyone who reads this blog knows that my room is on the 17th floor of a fancy hotel right on the Tumon Bay Marine Preserve.

How cool is that?

Sometimes life as a treehugger is good. Pretty darn good.

Tumon Bay Reserve Guam

Mariana Trench in Full Color

A recent Internet poll conducted by Lil Hammerhead and copied onto The Saipan Blog found overwhelming support for the proposed "National Park of the Sea."

This is encouraging for me because only a few hundred people have sat in on the presentation. We have no where to go but up.

I want to speak to every single person in the CNMI about this issue, but I have to admit that doing so will take some time. In the meantime, go ahead and pick up the newest issue of MP Magazine, which features an article on the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument.

It will be available next week.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

My Mom is coming to Saipan!

She arrives Thursday, May 30!

Katie, Kevin, and Jim are coming, too!!!

I like what I said in this one

The Saipan Tribune has an article on Saipan's graffiti problem today. I was one of the people interviewed for the story. I don't often say this, but I like the way I was quoted. Rianne did a good job of capturing how I feel on this subject.

Thanks, Rianne. Good work.
Bus stop vandalism a perennial scourge
By Rianne Pangelinan-Brown
Reporter

The Public School System bus stops-concrete tin-roofed sheds that are usually painted a bright yellow-have become perennial targets of hooligans, who not only festoon the structure with graffiti but also subject them to various acts of vandalism.

The issue has prompted the Public School System pupil transportation division to air its concerns, particularly since it believes that the vandalism is being done by students themselves, who often linger at the bus stops before and after school.

PSS bus team leader Steven M. Pangelinan said that one of the biggest problem the pupil transportation division is facing is the vandalism and graffiti at bus stops that never cease.

“All summer last year, we went from bus stop to bus stop just trying to clean and paint them before the school year begins. But just halfway through the school year, most of them are already vandalized with all sorts of graffiti,” Pangelinan said.

He said that bus drivers “do the best they can” to clean and paint the island's bus stops, which they do during their breaks.

“Students need to know that these bus stops are not for anybody else; the bus stops are there for them,” Pangelinan said.

Beautify CNMI volunteer Angelo Villagomez agrees.

“If we don't have enough respect for these kids to even provide them with toilet paper, never mind the proper materials and tools for learning, how can we expect them to respect the rest of society? The kids wouldn't vandalize something they respected, so the trick is to get them to respect what is ultimately theirs,” he said.

Villagomez said the trick to it is to be diligent. “You have to just keep painting over the vandalism.”

“There is a bigger problem at work, though. Graffiti in itself is just a symptom of a much larger problem,” said Villagomez.

He said the lack of after-school activities may be one of the causes why students vandalize.

“If you think things are bad, just wait until school is canceled for two months. It's not just the schools, either. A lot of the vandalism occurs at night. Where are the parents?” Villagomez asked.

Pangelinan said some of the most vandalized bus stops are from 99 Cents Mart to Tanapag.

He said that, although a number of beautification groups, lawmakers, and the Department of Public Safety have all chipped in, “they [vandalized bus stops] still need a lot of work. They always need a lot of work.”

Pangelinan said the cash-strapped PSS depends on donations of paint and materials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency as well as donations from community officials and beautification groups to maintain the bus stops.

Last year, the Marianas Visitors Authority donated $2,000 for paint that was used to paint over the graffiti.

Villagomez said, “The best way to make sure that a bus stop is never vandalized again is to have the kids that use the bus stop paint it. Let them paint it however they want.”

“Then they'll take ownership over the bus stop and they'll be the ones doing the policing,” he added.

Blogger Meetup Anyone?

Rick Jones asked me about getting the blogger meetups going again. Is anyone interested? The blog wars seem to have died down now that the election is over and the debate over who has the best and most popular blog on Saipan has been settled.

Mine.

:)

I think it is a good time to get them going again, so what do you say?

We were doing them on the last Wednesday of the month. The last Wednesday of this month is the 30th.

Are you with me?

Blogger meetup, April 30th at 360 at 5 PM. 360 has wireless internet. Pass it on.

And hey, Rick, those pictures my Mom sent me contain a few shots taken from inside your revolving restaurant, looking out. My best guess is that they were taken in 1980. I'll have to show them to you.

Back in the Day II

I'm going to Guam tomorrow on business and I wanted to put up another set of Back in the Day pictures before I left.

This is Back in the Day II. I welcome my fellow bloggers to post their own Back in the Day. No rules. No tagging. Just post some old pictures and write whatever you want to write about them.
The Brothers Villagomez: My father flew everyone from Saipan out to California in 1999 for a family vacation. Alex and I flew out from Orlando to meet them there. Here are his five boys standing in the parking lot outside of Disneyland.

Fish Tales: I think this picture is from 1993. Is it just me, or were the fish bigger back then? I remember that we only caught two fish on this trip. We caught the tuna I'm holding and a rainbow runner. The boat belonged to my Uncle John.

Familia Villagomez: This picture was taken in 2000. It was the last, and only the second, time all of my father's six children were in one place. We were all in Hawaii to be at Dad's bedside. He had just had a heart attack. I read the first three Harry Potter books sitting in that chair.

Visiting DC: This is the last picture I ever took with Dad. He was in DC for a meeting with other officials from the CNMI. I remember meeting Pete P. Tenorio and Juan Babauta at a function there.

Child LaborChild Labor: My father always put us to work when we visited during the summers. When we were younger it was gathering coconuts and then placing the husks around the bases of the trees in our yard. As we got older we took over grass mowing and tuba collecting duties.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Letter

After getting positive feedback from members of Governor Fitial's administration and other locals, the Pew Environmental Group sent this letter:

Pew Charitable Trusts
December 20, 2007
The Honorable Benigno Repeki Fitial
Governor
Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
Caller Box 10007, Capital Hill
Saipan, MP 96950

Dear Governor Fitial,

I work in Juneau, Alaska for the Pew Environment Group on a project called Ocean Legacy. Although you and I have not yet had the opportunity to meet, Angelo Villagomez and I had coffee on August 16, 2007 to discuss our Ocean Legacy idea with your Senior Policy Advisor, Ramon Mafnas and Secretary Ignacio Dela Cruz. Representative Cinta M. Kaipat helped set up and also participated in this meeting. I have been in contact with Mr. Villagomez and Ms. Kaipat concerning our idea since January 2007.

As the leader of an island nation, you are well aware that the world’s oceans face a difficult future for a number of reasons including pollution, overfishing and climate change. Worldwide, many of the most valuable fisheries and ecosystems have been degraded with little hope of improvement or reversal in the near term. Foreign fishing fleets are scouring the globe to find and exploit the last outposts of healthy fish populations. Clearly, humankind has not fully valued our marine environment nor offered protection to the cultural, biological and geological resources of the world’s great seascapes as we have done on land. With few exceptions, there are no Grand Canyon National Parks of the sea. This is a tragedy because ours is likely the last generation with an opportunity to protect important remnants of this rich oceanic heritage.

The Pew Environment Group is an international non-profit committed to working with communities around the globe to educate the public and policy makers about the causes, consequences and possible solutions to environmental problems. One of the areas on which we focus is ameliorating the loss of the world’s great marine ecosystems.

Ocean Legacy is an initiative of the Pew Environment Group in collaboration with the Oak Foundation, the Sandler Family Supporting Foundation and the Robertson Foundation. It is an outgrowth of our work in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands which led to the creation of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. The goal of the project to is to identify suitable large marine ecosystems and work with local governments to see if a handful of these “parks of the sea” can be protected for future generations.

To initiate the Ocean Legacy work, we commissioned an exhaustive look at marine systems worldwide to identify high-value cultural, biological and geological features worthy of protection. We were particularly interested in relatively healthy ocean ecosystems where the long-term economic and cultural benefits of protection would outweigh the value of potential short-term extractive uses. We also needed to find political jurisdictions with a capacity and a history of professional management and enforcement.

To date, we identified only four areas of the world that meet these criteria: Australia’s Coral Sea, New Zealand’s Kermadec Trench, the British Indian Ocean Territory of the Chagos Islands, and the Exclusive Economic Zone around the northernmost three of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Several features attracted our interest in this region of the Northern Mariana Islands. First, it sits along the Marianas Trench, the deepest place on the globe and demonstrably one of the wonders of the natural world. Second, there has to date been only a minor amount of legal fishing in the area; it is healthy and relatively free from pollution and other direct human impacts. Third, this area is important enough that the residents of the Mariana Islands have already recognized the special nature of the three northern islands and designated them as nature reserves in the Commonwealth Constitution. Fourth, we understand from discussions with a number of individuals in Saipan that local use of the area is limited and intermittent. Fifth, we understand that it is a dream for all Chamorros and Carolinians to someday visit the northern waters and there is local interest in protecting them for future generations as part of your cultural heritage.

As I know you are aware, we have modeled our thinking on the recent designation of the northwest Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) as a Marine National Monument - essentially a National Park in the sea. Protection of the NWHI was widely supported by Native Hawaiians, business leaders, the Governor and community leaders from across the political spectrum. Hawaiians recognized the unique nature of the NWHI and the region’s importance to the culture and history of Hawai’i. Ultimately there was widespread understanding that extractive uses were less important than restoring, protecting and maintaining a part of Hawaii’s marine legacy for future generations.

As a consequence of the Monument designation, the State of Hawai’i received an additional bonus. Although state jurisdiction legally extends only to three miles from the islands of the NWHI, the Monument designation expressly provides for the state to be a co-manager throughout the monument effectively extending the area of state authority by almost 20 times, well into what were formerly exclusively federal waters. Furthermore, the state previously had little capacity and few resources to manage the remote waters of the NWHI but under the Monument agreement, an opportunity now exists for the state to receive additional federal support as co-manager.

To be clear, our concept of a monument surrounding the constitutionally protected CNMI Nature Reserve is a private initiative. We will be successful only if the local residents and their elected leaders are supportive. We also need the support of the federal government. Ultimately it is the governments that are capable of protecting and providing research, monitoring and enforcement for these icons of the sea.

The rules by which monuments are created and managed are not fixed. The NW Hawaiian Islands model suited the circumstances and interests of the Governor and people of Hawai’i. If a Marine Monument were to be designated in the CNMI the resource management undoubtedly would differ to reflect local wishes.

The restrictions adopted for the NW Hawaiian Islands were put in place largely at the request of state Office of Hawaiian Affairs and Native Hawaiian elders who honor and revere the NW Hawaiian Islands and wanted access restricted. It was not something that was imposed by the federal government. As part of that agreement, a working group of 15 Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners was established to help Monument staff review and approve access and fishing permits.

The NWHI currently has a small bottomfish fishery of eight vessels. Under the monument designation, those boats have five additional years to fish (until June 15, 2011) before commercial fishing in the area is ended. In addition, subsistence fishing is allowed in the Monument by Native Hawaiians. Lately, this opportunity has only been exercised once or twice a year, mostly by traveling in traditional canoes. The 200 mile distance from the nearest inhabited islands, Kauai, makes greater use of the area difficult just as it does for the northern islands which are over 300 miles from Saipan.

The economic opportunities created through designation of a large Marianas Trench Marine Monument are real. As the principle federal agency involved, the National Marine Sanctuary Program would undertake a management plan in conjunction with the CNMI government. Every monument/sanctuary that the Sanctuary Program manages has a visitor center which, in the case of the Mariana Islands could potentially include information on the region’s biology, volcanism and features of the world’s deepest trench. It could offer a dramatic and informative new visitor venue for Saipan in additional to providing educational programs for residents.

The Sanctuary Program also promotes, research, monitoring and enforcement within its monuments. This would require the chartering of local vessels and/or the acquisition of new vessels capable of traveling more than 300 miles to the northern islands. In Hawai’i they are looking at acquiring a plane to help in the management of the monument. All of this requires staff, for example the NW Hawaiian Islands monument now has about 40 full-time employees, most of whom are local including several Native Hawaiians.

Finally, Hawai’i received widespread publicity and recognition during and after the creation of the National Monument. Some of that press is still appearing. This one action established Hawai’i as a leader in ocean protection and a leader in Pacific conservation. A monument within CNMI waters could become the second largest protected area in the world, effectively putting CNMI on the map globally. Given its distance from Saipan, a new CNMI monument would be unlikely to attract a large numbers of on-site visitors but its designation would be a magnet for attracting high end “adventure” tourists. For example this spring, a new tourism operation is opening up in the NW Hawaiian Islands with regular charter flights to Midway Island. This is a direct result of the attention, publicity and increased public interest surrounding the designation of the new National Monument. International attention on a large undersea park would focus welcome attention on CNMI, the kind of attention that attracts independent tourists now being sought by the ecotourism industry. These are the kind of visitors who may not have noticed CNMI to date but would notice that one of the 14 U.S. marine “parks” was located there.

I have visited your beautiful islands three times this year to talk with people and determine local interest in the idea of a creating a “national park of the sea” in the northern islands. After our initial discussions with Senior Policy Advisor Ramond Mafnas and Secretary Dela Cruz, we decided it was important to spend more time assessing local interest in the concept and resolving any concerns before we took your time discussing this opportunity.

While there remain many questions about the concept, which we are happy to address, the reaction of many community members with whom we have spoken about this idea has been generally favorable. Angelo and I look forward to continuing this dialog and would be pleased to brief you at your convenience. We believe that a fair look at the facts and consideration of the potential economic benefits for Saipan and the Commonwealth will continue to generate broad support locally.

We look forward to talking with you and providing you with any information you might need.

Sincerely,



Jay Nelson
Director – Global Ocean Legacy

cc: The Honorable Cinta Kaipat
Ray Mafnas, Senior Policy Advisor to the Governor
Dr. Ignacio Dela Cruz, Secretary, Department of Lands and Natural Resources
John Joyner, Director, Coastal Resources Management
Frank Rabauliman, Director, Division of Environmental Quality
Sylvan Igisomar, Director, Division of Fish and Wildlife
Angelo Villagomez