Thursday, October 30, 2008

Press Release from the Friends of the Monument

Northern Marianas Public School Students Submit 500 Letters to President Bush

22 October 2008


Ike Cabrera:; (670) 256-5648 (h); 483-8426 (m)
Agnes McPhetres:; 670-235-2430 (h)
Andrew Salas:; 670-285-3740 (c); 233-8200 (o)

Saipan — Today the Friends of the Monument (FOM), a coalition of indigenous and resident people of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) who support designation and protection of the important ocean resources along the Mariana Trench* announced the submission of over 500 letters to President Bush written by local youth.

Throughout October, FOM visited classrooms and presented information on the pros and cons of a CNMI marine national monument to over 1000 local junior high and high school students. Opponents of the monument proposal were accorded a similar opportunity. Several of the teachers then had their students write letters to President Bush expressing their opinion about whether or not a monument should be established in CNMI waters.

“An overwhelming number of student letters were written in support of the proposed monument,” said 8th grade science teacher Kimberly Vaillancourt.

Vaillancourt brought some of her students to American Memorial National Park on Saipan to turn in her school’s letters. The students, who recently completed a class assignment which included a public debate on the monument issue, watched as the National Park Service representative individually logged each comment letter.

“It was a good lesson in civics for the students,” observed Vaillancourt.

Tenth grade language arts teacher Bryan Jones agreed. “Over 500 students participated in the spirited discussion and debate regarding the proposed monument. The vast majority concluded the idea would be a benefit for conservation, for the economy and for the future.”

On August 25, 2008 President George W. Bush directed his federal agencies to assess several sites in the Pacific for increased conservation and protection, including the possible designation of new marine monuments. One of the sites identified by the White House is a portion of the Mariana Trench within Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and adjacent waters. A proposal for protecting this area of more than 115,000 square miles has been debated in the CNMI for almost a year.

James Connaughton, Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality and representatives from the U.S. departments of Commerce and Interior recently visited the CNMI to discuss the President’s marine conservation initiative with the Governor Benigno Fitial and other CNMI officials. Until October 26, 2008 comments on the proposal can be sent to:


*The Mariana Trench is the deepest point on the globe at over 36,000 feet deep. Mt. Everest dropped into the Trench would have more than a mile of water above it.

Friends of the Monument Web site:

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