Friday, December 09, 2016

Monumental Timeline

Look at all those seamounts!
It is December 9, 2016 in Washington, DC right now; That makes the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument just one month shy of 8 years old. I've been advocating for the monument for almost 10 years, too.

I've spent most of the last three months in Saipan talking to the community about the proposal to create a Marianas Trench Marine National Sanctuary, and one of the questions I get is why has nothing happened in 8 years? Now, I've been working on this a lot over the years, so when I hear this, I take a deep breath, and start talking about everything that has taken place. I decided it would make sense to put some of these things down on paper, so that I can easily share it.

This is going to go to design to make it pretty, but here's a basic outline of the last 10 years of the Marianas Trench. It's pretty long, and actually leaves out a lot, including the legislation that Kilili introduced to put a sanctuary visitors center on Saipan, competing legislation that would put it on Guam, the meetings of the advisory panel, the politics to name the advisory panel, the visitors center workshops, the government meetings to develop the draft management plan, and I'm sure several other things. Like I said, it's an outline. If something is missing, leave me a comment and I'll plug it in.
January 2007
Pew travels to Saipan and Guam and meets with government officials, conservationists, and fishermen.

August 2007
Pew travels to Saipan and meets with CNMI DLNR Secretary and Office of the CNMI Governor.

January 2008
Pew hires staff on Saipan.

March 2008
Pew presents proposal for Marianas Trench Marine National Monument at the Office of the Governor.

July 2008
Friends of the Marianas Trench forms and begin collecting petitions in the community.

August 2008
Bush Administration announces comment period for possible ocean protections.

September 2008
Pew releases “The Deepest Ocean on Earth: A Scientific Case for Establishing the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument.”

October 2008
Bush Administration officials visit Guam and Saipan and hold public hearings. Friends of the Marianas Trench publish their Vision Statement, with six goals related to Management and Enforcement, Culture and Tradition, Conservation, Education, Research and Exploration, and Economic Development.

November 2008
Friends of the Marianas Trench deliver 6,000 signatures in support of a monument to Bush White House. Barack Obama elected as the 44th President of the United States.

January 2009
Marianas Trench Marine National Monument declared. It protects over 95,000 square miles of seafloor and waters in the Mariana Archipelago under federal jurisdiction. The monument consists of three units: the Islands Unit, which protects the seafloor and waters around the three northernmost Mariana Islands, Farallon de Pajaros or Uracas, Maug, and Asuncion; the Volcanic Unit, which protects the seafloor surrounding 21 volcanic sites of exceptional scientific and conservation value; and the Trench Unit, which protects the seafloor east of the archipelago inside the US Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) from north of Uracus to south of Guam. The Department of Interior US Fish & Wildlife Service and Department of Commerce NOAA Fisheries programs are named the lead management agencies.

April 2009
Friends of the Marianas Trench write to Delegate Gregorio Camacho “Kilili” Sablan asking him to introduce legislation that would: “(1) transfer the monument to the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries; (2) extend the existing boundaries to include the northern waters; and (3) close the entire monument to sustenance, commercial and recreational fishing (continuing to allow traditional indigenous fishing) as outlined in our Vision Statement.” The letter also addresses submerged lands issues, and offers a solution that was eventually accepted as a compromise between the federal and CNMI governments.

May 2009
Governor Fitial writes to Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar opposing Friends of the Marianas Trench suggestions, but asks for “prompt implementation…of the visitor’s center for the Monument.” The letter notes that the Department of Commerce National Marine Sanctuary program is not the monument’s manager.

June 2009
Friends of the Marianas Trench write to NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco to ask her to begin a sanctuary designation process in the CNMI.

August 2009
Dr. Lubchenco replies with a negative.

December 2009
Delegate Kilili writes to CNMI Department of Lands and Natural Resources Secretary Dr. Ignacio Dela Cruz to inform him of an $220,000 appropriation from the US Congress to be used “for educational programs on marine sanctuaries.”

February 2010
Friends of the Marianas Trench write to NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco again to ask her to begin a sanctuary designation process in the CNMI. The letter points out that the deadline to appoint an advisory council has passed, and that no progress has been made to development a management plan for the monument.

March 2010
Friends of the Marianas Trench write to Delegate Kilili to request that the $220,000 appropriate be used to develop and design a Marianas Trench Visitors Center, “resulting in a workable, concrete architectural plan and plans for hands-on exhibits, an aquarium, areas for scientific presentations, and other community interactions.”

April 2010
Dr. Lubchenco again replies with a negative, but promises that the NOAA Pacific Islands Regional Office will “explore ways that we can better develop a partnership with the CNMI government..(and) assist the CNMI in meeting some of its goals in marine protection, education, and research.”

May 2011
USFWS publish their first planning update on developing a management plan, four months after it was supposed to be finished.

November 2011
Request for Proposals for bids to conduct visitors center design plan goes out from CNMI government.

February 2012
USFWS publish their second planning update on developing a management plan, announce dates for public scoping meetings.

March 2012
James Cameron becomes the third human to descend to the bottom of the Marianas Trench.

November 2012
Barack Obama elected to a second term.

March 2013
USFWS published their third planning update on developing a management plan, which includes comments and questions received and their responses.

May 2013
Report on visitors center completed by Herman B. Cabrera and Associates. The $144,950 report suggests it will cost nearly $1/2 million to retrofit the Navy Hill Lighthouse to be usable for a visitors center. The report does not include any plans for exhibits, or renderings of a possible visitors center. The report recommends another location be used for a visitors center. The Friends of the Marianas Trench are disappointed with the cost and the content of the report. $47,419 of federal dollars were returned unused.

August 2013
Friends of the Marianas Trench write to Matt Brookhart to support the re-establishment of the nomination process for new national marine sanctuaries.

October 2013
Delegate Kilili writes to Acting NOAA Administrator Kathy Sullivan to request an assessment to manage the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument as part of the National Marine Sanctuaries network.

December 2013
Dr. Sullivan responds by writing that she has “asked ONMS and NMFS to develop a plan for greater ONMS involvement in the MTMNM.” She also encouraged the delegate and his staff to “continue working with NOAA on providing effective management for the MTMNM.”

September 2014
USFWS publishes their fourth planning update on developing a management plan, includes a schedule for Visitor Center Working Group Public listening session, published fishing regulations, and draft goals.

September 2016
Governor Ralph Deleon Guerrero Torres and Delegate Kilili write to President Obama requesting designation of a marine sanctuary.

November 2016
Donald J. Trump elected as the 45th President of the United States.

December 2016
Friends of the Marianas Trench submit a nomination to begin the designation process for a marine sanctuary. The monument management plan has still not been put forward for public comment.

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