Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Law of the Sea

Local attorney, Wes Bogdan, had a letter to the Editor published today:
Law of the sea

Seems like a lot of confusion out there as to some of the legal details and formalities concerning the proposed marine national monument. Unfortunately, keeping the public misinformed is the way many of the opponents to this idea probably want things to stay because controlling people through fear and ignorance is a powerful way to keep the public silent. In any respect, as to submerged land (and all the stuff found in the water) surrounding the Northern Mariana Islands, legally speaking, the U.S. Court of Appeals' decision in CNMI v. USA, 399 F.3d 1057 (2005) makes absolutely clear that the United States already owns all the rights to the submerged lands and other things of value found from the low-water mark on all of our islands out to the 200-mile-limit of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone. All the natural resources such as oil, gas, and all other minerals, and fish, shrimp, oysters, clams, crabs, lobsters, sponges, kelp, and other marine animal and plant life surrounding these islands are already under federal control and ownership.

As categorically explained in CNMI v. USA, the U.S. acquired upon the termination of the Pacific Islands Trusteeship a paramount interest in the seaward submerged lands found off the shores of the CNMI. “Laws passed by the CNMI Legislature to the contrary are inconsistent with the paramountcy doctrine and are preempted by federal law.” To be absolutely clear, the CNMI's Submerged Lands Act and Marine Sovereignty Act have been preempted and are unenforceable. The CNMI Coastal Resources Management's arguments that: (i) we don't no need the feds because everything is already fine and dandy in the waters around the Northern Islands due to the great job CRM is doing; and (ii) that establishing a national monument will take away the rights of the local people how to regulate the local marine environment are absurd or otherwise nonsense.

First, CRM taking credit for the pristine conditions found in the waters around the Northern Islands is like CRM taking credit for the Sun being an efficient source of solar energy. (In all due respect: One has absolutely nothing to do with the other.) Second, the right of the local people to regulate the local marine environment was transferred or passed to the United States the day the people of the Northern Mariana Islands became United States citizens on Nov. 3, 1986. If a marine national park/monument is created, it won't be taking any rights away from the people of the CNMI, but would guarantee that the pristine conditions found in the waters around the Northern Islands will at least have a chance to survive. As for the actual islands of Maug, Uracas and Asuncion, they are already protected and can only “be maintained as uninhabited places used only for the preservation and protection of natural resources, including but not limited to bird, wildlife and plant species.” See CNMI Constitution Article XIV Section 2.

W.M. Bogdan, Esq.
via e-mail

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