I remember after the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument was declared on January 6 of this year expressing the sentiment to someone close to me that I was glad it was all over.
"Angelo, you don't know what you got yourself into. You've only just begun."
Or something to that effect.
The promises made by the W. White House were basically that the declaration would lead to a boat (jobs), a visitors center (infrastructure), and world-wide international attention (free exposure). So far only one of those promises has come to fruition, the free exposure.
Right after the monument was declared there was a flood of free exposure. Virtually every media outlet on the planet, whether TV, newspaper, magazine, radio, or internet, carried the story. The exposure continued with the NBC Nightly News story during Earth Week and will continue again with the upcoming stories in Mother Jones and Outside magazines.
Whether or not that exposure leads to increased visitor arrivals will depend on how well the Marianas Visitors Authority and the private business owners leverage that exposure. Are they marketing Saipan as the gateway to the Marianas Trench and the Monument? Are they selling our natural wonders as something that must be seen? Time will tell.
As for the visitors center and the boat, those issues are still being worked out.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service has yet to finalize and announce the members of the monument Advisory Panel even though the declaration specifically stated that this was to be done by last April. This makes me wonder about the management plan being finished on time, too. The declaration gave the government two years. How far along are they?
To help this process along I recently traveled to Hawaii to testify at President Obama's Ocean Task Force public hearing.
The Ocean Task Force is headed by 24 officials from the Federal Government, including NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco and CEQ Chair Nancy Sutley. That's Dr. Lubchenco second from the left.
The public meeting in Hawaii was attended by over 300 people and there were satellite links to Saipan, Guam, Maui, the Big Island, and Washington, DC.
I traveled with Dennis Chan, the local essay contest winner who accompanied us on our trip to the monument last July. We both testified.
The point of our testimony was to ask for a visitors center and to share the Friends of the Marianas Trench Monument's Vision Statement from October 2008, which we did. We also shared some of our experiences from the expedition up north.
The crowd twice applauded me and several people came up to me afterwards to thank me for my testimony. At least I know they were listening.