To Senate President Pete P. Reyes
16th Commonwealth Legislature
Article XIV, Section 2 of the Northern Marianas Constitution addresses two important concepts with respect to “Uninhabited Islands.” First, it restricts the use of Managaha Island for “cultural and recreational” purposes only. Second, it identifies four islands to be “maintained as uninhabited places and used only for preservation,” namely the islands of Maug, Uracas, Asuncion, Guguan.
During the Second Northern Marianas Constitutional Convention of 1985, the Committee on Personal Rights & Natural Resources, of which I was a member, found that the islands of Uracas and Asuncion, two of the three islands in the proposed Mariana Trench Marine National Monument, are volcanically active and are generally unsuitable for permanent habitation. The Committee found that in their “undisturbed state”, these islands have acquired a “unique flora and fauna” and are “well suited for preservation or sanctuary status.”
We also found that “in order to protect and preserve these unique biological characteristics, including the native wildlife and habitats, access to these islands must be controlled.”
Furthermore, we found that these islands warranted protections because they had not sustained “substantial environmental damage caused by feral pigs and goats.”
Finally, we found that “management or protection of fish could be addressed by an appropriate agency of the government if necessary.”
The arguments I have heard in the media against the proposed Mariana Trench Marine National Monument all run counter to the intent of the writers of our beloved Constitution.
You have heard from that the current administration does not support the preservation of these northern islands. They support “sustainable use,” which conflicts with the Constitutional purpose to preserve these islands.
You have heard that if a monument were declared we would have to “ask permission” to go there. Our original intent in protecting those islands was for everyone to “ask permission.” That is the best way to protect and preserve their unique biological characteristics.
You have heard that there is no need to protect these islands because they are “so beautiful, so lush.” That is exactly why we intended to protect those islands in the first place. These islands are undisturbed and they are unique and they can serve as a source of population of wildlife to be used for restocking other islands where certain species, such as fruit bats and coconut crabs, have been depleted. They are also the last vestige of what the Marianas were like before the Spanish arrived.
Finally, you have heard that this is nothing more than another “federal takeover.” While our intent was to protect all the resources in the far north, we do not have jurisdiction or control over any of our surrounding waters. The Federal government has jurisdiction from the mean high water mark out to 200 nautical miles. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is the federal agency focused on the condition of the oceans and NOAA Sanctuaries is the appropriate government agency for preservation of our marine resources, not NOAA Fisheries.
I have attached a copy of the “Report to the Convention by the Committee on Personal Rights & Natural Resources: Committee Recommendation No. 29” for your reference. It will help you understand our constitution better.
In closing, I urge you to support the proposed Mariana Trench Marine National Monument. It will fulfill the original intent of our constitution and benefit generations of Chamorros and Carolinians to come.
Si Yu'use Ma'ase for your time and consideration.
Karl T. Reyes
Friends of the Monument
Friday, September 19, 2008
Uncle Karl's letter was published in the Saipan Tribune today: