Monday, September 21, 2009

Beautify CNMI announces slogan and bumper sticker contest

Beautify CNMI is looking for a new slogan following the successful “What we do on the land can affect our marine environment” campaign started in 2006.

In order to find a new slogan, Beautify CNMI is looking to the community for help.

Artists are being asked to come up with a slogan and to design a bumper sticker that goes along with their slogan. The winner will receive $150 cash and fifty of their winning bumper stickers to give out to friends and family.

The contest is open to all residents of all ages of the Commonwealth. Guidelines for the slogan contest are:

• must be original
• must be relevant to the actions and mission of Beautify CNMI.
• The bumper sticker can be square or horizontally rectangular.
• Artists and participants can submit more than one design and more than one artist can work together on a single submission.
• Designs may be by free-hand sketch, drawing or computer generated, but must be in electronic format to be considered.
• Entries must be submitted by noon on October 24, 2009 and must include the artist's full name, mailing address, telephone number and email address if available.

A brief statement explaining the design and slogan may accompany entries.

All entries will become the property of Beautify CNMI and can be used freely by Beautify CNMI and must be received on or before Thursday, October 24, 2009 at noon. Entries are to be submitted via email to

Beautify CNMI reserves the right to modify the winning logo at any time but when possible, Beautify CNMI will work with the original artists to make these changes.

Beautify CNMI reserves the right to correct any information that appears in this contest in error and is not responsible for omissions.

For inquiries contact Angelo Villagomez at 670 285 6462

Thursday, August 27, 2009

June Meeting Minutes

Friends of the Monument
June 17, 2009
Meeting Minutes

I. Attendees: Angelo Villagomez, Laurie Peterka, Agnes McPhetres, Mike Tripp, Marjalee Taitano, Max Simian
II. Adoption of Agenda - adopted
III. Adoption of May minutes - adopted
IV. Letter to NOAA
a. Requesting a Sanctuary Scoping
b. A letter has been drafted by the board
c. We will incorporate the edits suggested during the meeting and sign the letter
V. Maug Boat Trip
a. Several members interested in chartering a boat
b. We are looking for a boat and if the price is right we will pay to go up – Norm Tenorio? Marjalee will give Kelly Tenorio a call.
c. A reporter is interested in coming along – Outside Magazine
d. Should friends draft a letter to a boat in Palau?
VI. Trophies
a. Some of the friends want one of the EPA Award trophies. ~$50/piece
b. MINA has $98.
c. Laurie suggested that the money go towards discounting the price of all the trophies
d. Agreed to offer a discount for the trophies
VII. Incorporation
a. By-Laws
b. Articles of Incorporation
VIII. Reports
a. Chair – not present
b. Vice Chair – nothing to report
c. Treasurer – no money
d. Secretary
i. Going to create a committee to respond to SB 16-32
ii. Going to work on a newsletter
e. Public Relations
i. Wood’s Hole did not come to Marianas
ii. Marjalee recommended that we right them a letter letting them know we were disappointed
f. Education/Outreach – not present
g. Government Communications – not present
IX. Other Business
a. Angelo made a $200 donation to Coral Reef Alliance on behalf of Beautify CNMI and Friends of the Monument to support recommendations to President Obama.
X. Adjournment

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

CNMI Coastal Cleanup Day

Beautify CNMI began its fourth year of service this year. Started with the simple idea of making the Commonwealth a better to live and visit, for going on four years now we've cleaned up beaches, roads, and tourist sites, planted trees, painted over graffiti, and promoted recycling and coral reef conservation.

In our first year we planned and executed an island wide cleanup called 1020 on 10/20, with the idea of having at least 1020 volunteers help us spruce up the island on October 20, 2006. Not only did we reach our goal of 1020, but we surpassed it by recruiting over 3000 volunteers.

Earlier this year in April we did it again and were even more successful. The weekend before Earth Day 2009, 27,070 lbs of trash were picked up by 4,140 volunteers from 61 volunteer groups at 54 adopted sites on Saipan.

Next month we hope to do it again with CNMI Coastal Cleanup Day.

Following the same model as the other two large cleanups, we are asking volunteer groups to adopt a beach for a day (and hopefully for a year!). We'll provide the tools and the trash pickup, you just provide the volunteers and a little bit of coordination.

From the Division of Environmental Quality:
Hundreds of volunteers throughout the CNMI are expected to clean their beaches next month as part of the world’s largest volunteer cleanup effort.

The 24th annual International Coastal Cleanup is Saturday, September 19 – from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Everyone is invited to participate. Saipan and Tinian are scheduled to participate on September 19, and Rota’s event is on Friday September 18.

On Saipan, a number of groups have already adopted beaches, including South Lao Lao and Cow Town, according to the Division of Environmental Quality. However, dozens of other beaches still need volunteers.

Several groups are working together to coordinate events on Saipan and Tinian, and the Coastal Resources Management Office is taking the lead on Rota.

The International Coastal Cleanup is the world's largest volunteer effort to help protect the ocean, according to the Ocean Conservancy, a nonprofit organization dedicated solely to protecting ocean environments and marine life.

Last year, nearly 400,000 volunteers hit their local beaches, lakes, and rivers with a common mission of improving the health of the ocean and waterways. On one day, they removed and tallied 6.8 million pounds of debris, from 6,485 sites in 100 countries and 42 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

DEQ will retrieve and properly dispose of the trash collected from the cleanup on Saipan.

Cleanup supplies – garbage bags and gloves which were purchased with funds from a generous Bridge Capital donation – will be available at DEQ the week before the cleanup.

Interested participants are encouraged to sign up for the event so that organizers may arrange for proper pick up and disposal of garbage.

To request a signup sheet for Saipan or Tinian, contact Lisa Huynh Eller, Olivia Tebuteb or Carlos Ketebengang, DEQ, at 664-8500 or email - For information about Rota’s event, contact William T. Pendergrass, ICC Coordinator, or MJ Taisacan, CRMO Administrative Clerk, at 532-0466 or fax 532-1000.
Contact me for a sign up sheet and I will send you one. We will have a listing of all the cleanups up on the Beautify CNMI website soon.

In the meantime, photos from this year's Island Wide Cleanup can be found on the Beautify CNMI Facebook Fan Page here and here.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Local Student Wins Essay Contest

The essay contest to find a local person to join our expedition to Maug ended last night. Two essays stood out, one from a young student and the other from a young teacher. In the end we chose the student, but the vote was not unanimous.

Dennis Chan of San Vicente, an 18 year recent high school graduate, will accompany us to the island of Maug next Monday.

Congrats, Dennis.
Friends of the Monument
July 13, 2009

Why I Want to Visit the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument

I am eighteen and have just graduated from high school. I am no fishermen, not an excellent swimmer, cannot dive into meters deep water and wrestle whales. I’m from Saipan and if were chosen would well-represent my age group. I want so badly to get on that boat to Maug to experience the greater Marianas.

People my age, my fellow graduates and many of my friends still in high school easily diss the commonwealth, their Saipan that they reside in. Whether it is the government, school or the smallness they feel holds them. Our memories are still fresh of the summer of 2008 in the rolling blackouts in the sweat. I’m sure we love Saipan, I love Saipan, we swim at beaches, climb down, climb up the stairs of the grotto, and stroll the street market, however there’s a perception that we know all there is to know, we’ve sucked all the sap there is on Saipan. It’s been said that Saipan is a bore. Our eyes look to taller buildings, the malls of the mainland. We sigh, jaded and discontent after signing in, signing off, signing in, signing off, Myspace, Facebook, waiting for that viral video to load—we sigh worn with the immediacy of the Internet. “Saipan sucks.” My home sucks. This commonwealth sucks. Nothing’s happening. I’ve heard these things many times. My perception and theirs are limited to what we know. I feel strongly that there is something beautiful, not as immediate as a video on Youtube, but ever present. More reliable than whatever government is in place, more reliable than your water or electricity, more secure than an accredited college status—Saipan is not the Marianas, the Marianas rolls in blue expanse over miles and miles and settles some in the green and the trees and the beaches. I want to go to Maug and see this happen.

Perception is always jolted with new experience. I spent a week in Tinian without the internet or decent showers, kept awake with damp and smelly tents. We camped at Tachungnya. Our head instructor Ms. Valencourt remarked at the campfire how she gathered from what she heard, that we kids thought Tinian to be a foreign country. Tinian is right next door! Tinian is our sister and brother. Tinian holds so much history—I stood over the uncovered pits of Little Boy and Fat Man and was overwhelmed, viewed pictures of cities obliterated and was grave.

I may not speak for all my age, but our perception of fun forms in that media mold: what TV offers, what they say. But there is grandness here; there was on Tinian. On Tinian where Tachungnya houses fish a few feet from shore—the butterfly fish and its second rear eye swims by, on Tinian where the limestone trail deters to an edge to a view filled with blue, green and beach, on Tinian were destruction sat in pits that should have never been dug. Tinian has no theater, no stop lights, we joke, and yet Tinian was unique. All of us Saipan campers agreed on this.

That was all a tease though. Tinian’s become a tickle, and I think there might be more. I want to see the rest of my Marianas because I tasted Tinian.

Tinian is a ferry ride away and I felt it was another world. I’m naive for it, and maybe naive in thinking partly that a trip to Maug would render me to some enlightening epiphany. I want to go because I know I’d appreciate it. I want to go because I am young and feel the universe expanding, running and that I better catch up, or keep a good pace before it escapes me.
To the north on a boat to Maug maybe I’d get to know my home more—the greater Marianas. Maybe I’d taste some great fish, share in words that bewildered me and maybe other youth will read and decide to see for themselves. I want to go because I believe that the monument reveals and protects a Marianas with a different, better thrill than we, my age, have imagined finding elsewhere. But I want to know firsthand.

Dennis Chan
San Vicente

Friday, July 10, 2009

Win a Trip to the Northern Islands

A member of the Friends of the Monument has agreed to pay for a local young person to visit the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument and several of the Northern Islands later this month. The donor, who wishes to remain anonymous, wants a local person to experience visiting the uninhabited islands to the north. The donor hopes that the winner will share their experience with their families, friends, and classmates through photos and a daily journal.

The Friends of the Monument are holding an essay contest to select which young person gets to go on the trip scheduled for July 20 - 30.

The topic for the essay contest is “Why I want to visit the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.” The deadline for submissions is Monday, July 13, at 5pm. Essays must be in Microsoft Word format and e-mailed to There is a 1,000 word limit for the essay. Applicants must be between 18-25 years old.

The winning essay writer will earn a seat on a boat leaving for Maug on July 20, 2009. All transportation and food costs will be paid for by the donor. If for any reason the boat trip is canceled, the winner will have a seat on the next planned expedition.

The winner will be expected to keep a daily journal that will be published on the Friends of the Monument blog found at

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A Bit about the USF&WS

Reposted from my blog (per Angelo's invitation):

Angelo has an interesting post on a plan to deposit "euro trash" in the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.

We haven't been hearing enough lately about what's happening with the Monument. And this was not really good news. I suggested reporting on it to those in charge.

Remember who's in charge of the MTMNM? It's U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. And we've not been hearing anything about them lately.

So here's a tiny bit of news that I didn't see reported in our local newspapers (well, yes, it did make the Saipan Tribune, but I was gone from Saipan and didn't catch this...) President Obama has named a new director for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, subject to Senate confirmation. Sam D. Hamilton.

Ken Salazar, Interior Secretary, approves of the appointment. Mr. Hamilton also gets a thumbs up from two diametrically opposed groups: the National Wildlife Refuge Association (a conservation group) and "Ducks Unlimited" (a hunting group).

He's praised for his ability to balance competing interests--wildlife on the one hand and people on the other.

His record is not without problems. He has the weakest known record on enforcement of the Endangered Species Act, among all comparable officials, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. No wonder the hunters, anglers, and trappers like him!

Even more worrisome, in a 2005 survey of 1400 F&WS biologists, results from those working under Mr. Hamilton included the following:
"Nearly half (49%) of FWS respondents cited cases where "commercial interests have inappropriately induced the reversal or withdrawal of scientific conclusions or decisions through political intervention."

If this is not bad enough, it appears Mr. Hamilton also lacks experience with deep ocean environments. He helped with a (now defunct) congressional committee on merchant marines and fisheries. He's got some experience with fisheries and even with the Florida Everglades restoration. But even with this, his lack of ardor in protecting marine life, and concommitant lack of understanding of marine environments, seems evident.

For example, there was some criticism of the USFWS apparent failure to include relevant information about marine mammals--manatees--in an assessment approving of a new marina along the Orange River in Florida. And tourists were harrassing the manatees, which led to another complaint about USFWS's lack of enforcement of protections.

Perhaps this is the balance of interests he's known for?

Whether you agree with his philosophy on "balancing" competing "needs", there's no doubt Mr. Hamilton has a lot of experience, with many years at USF&WS. Yet none of his varied experience seems to be directly related to what will be at the heart of managing the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument--deep ocean ecology.

Which gets us back to that nitty gritty question: why USF&WS and not NOAA marine sanctuaries? aargh.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Subscribe to our email list

Click HERE and fill out the online form if you would like to subscribe to our regular email list.

HMRG Deep needs a new name

marianas trench marine national monumentUniversity of Hawaii professor and geologist Patricia Fryer and George Washington High School marine biology teacher and Marine Mania advisor Linda Tatreau are holding a contest to rename HMRG Deep, the second deepest place in the ocean.

According to the article in Pacific Daily News:
The contest is open to all Guam and Northern Mariana Island students ages 18 and under. The proposed name must reflect Guam's history, culture or language and the applicant must include a paragraph explaining the significance of the name.

All entries should include the applicants name, school and contact information. The deadline to submit entries is July 14 to

The winner of the contest will have their chosen name on all bathymetric/geologic maps and will also get to ride on the UnderWater World float in the Liberation Day Parade, with a banner stating the winning name.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Marianas Trench Marine National Monument Maps

bush pacific marine monumentsThese are the monuments created by President George W. Bush on January 6, 2009.

marianas trench marine national monument

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Friends of the Monument featured on EPA blog

The Environmental Protection Agency blog has a blog post about the Friends of the Monument. Woot!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Saipan to host regional environmental conference

Registration is now open for the 26th Pacific Islands Environment Conference, which will be held on Saipan on June 22 to June 25, 2009, and is expected to draw attendance from government officials and environmental leaders across the Pacific as well as the U.S. mainland.

This year's theme is “Climate of Change: Energizing a Sustainable Future for Pacific Islands.”

The conference is designed to provide a forum for leaders throughout the Pacific Basin to focus on important environmental issues through excellent speakers and interactive roundtable sessions.

On Monday, June 22, there will be pre-conference workshops and a CNMI Energy Summit. The formal PIEC conference agenda runs from June 23 to 25 and will feature both plenary and breakout sessions with a strong focus on clean energy and climate change. Field trips will be held the afternoon of Thursday, June 25.

The Pacific Islands Environment Conference is jointly sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the governments of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and American Samoa. Register today at

There is no registration fee for the conference, although the field trips and some lunches are subject to a fee. A block of rooms has been set aside at the Saipan World Resort for conference attendees, with rates starting at $100 per night (tax included). Airport transfers are available for a fee. Discounted rental car rates are being negotiated and additional details will be available soon. Those interested in participating in the conference are being urged to use the hotel reservation form on the registration Web site to reserve their room before the May 22 deadline.

For more information about the conference, contact Nuria Muñiz at (415) 972-3811 or, or Michael Mann at (415) 972-3505 or For information on exhibit opportunities, contact Fran Castro at 670-664-8500 or

For additional information and registration, visit

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Tan Holdings, Friends of the Monument recognized with Beautify CNMI awards

Beautify CNMI announced today the winners of their annual Environmental Champion and Environmental Steward Awards. The awards are given out to recognize individuals, organizations, and businesses that have proven to be environmental leaders in the Commonwealth.

The Environmental Champion award recognizes a person or group that exemplifies the Beautify CNMI spirit. Those qualities include volunteerism, cooperation, innovation, creativity and the ability to infect others with the Beauty Virus. The Environmental Champion is a role model for others to follow. They bring environmental issues to the forefront of public consciousness. They make things happen and effect change.

This year Beautify CNMI will recognize Tan Holdings, Laurie Peterka, and Ken Kramer as the 2009 Environmental Champions.

Tan Holdings is being recognized as a model of corporate environmental responsibility. Under the leadership of President Jerry Tan, Tan Holdings employees and friends have been part of several environmental projects over the past year. All Tan Holdings offices on Saipan participate in a Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle program and the company participates in a reusable shopping bag campaign with Joeten. Employees, often with the participation of management, regularly participate in cleanups, including the recent island wide cleanup.

Laurie Peterka and Ken Kramer are being recognized for their roles in the creation of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.

Kramer was so inspired by the concept of the monument that he quit his job so that he would have more time to collect signatures. Kramer was the largest signature collector for a petition being circulated in support of the monument, collecting over 1000 signatures at the street market, in front of stores, at the Sabalu market, and door to door. Kramer also penned nearly two-dozen letters to the editor educating newspaper readers about the benefits of a monument.

Peterka is being recognized for the role she played as staff with the Pew Environment Group. According to one of her nominations for the award, “Laurie has been the backbone of the Friends of the Monument’'s efforts: always there, always supportive, keeping things moving, doing much of the organizing, writing, scheduling, as well as a lot of the scut work.”

The Environmental Steward award recognizes a person or group that leads the community in activities that help protect our environment in a variety of ways. This individual or group has demonstrated the need to take pride in our islands and to take care of the place we all call home. They serve as an example for others, especially the next generation, to follow.

This year Beautify CNMI will recognize Friends of the Monument as the 2009 Environmental Stewards.

Friends of the Monument was formed to help promote the idea of creating a national marine monument in the waters around the three northernmost islands of the Northern Mariana Islands. The Friends of the Monument engaged in activities to help educate the community --distributing leaflets, conducting meetings, and coordinating with teachers for classroom presentations. The organization gathered more than 6,000 signatures on petitions in support of the designation of a Monument. The Friends sent representatives to Washington, D.C. to meet with White House officials, and participated in television and radio public service announcements and advertising. Ultimately, they were instrumental in the process that resulted in former President George W. Bush designating the Marianas Trench Marine Monument, along with three larger national marine monuments.

The awards were handed out at the Beautify CNMI/PAWS Boonie Dog Show on Saturday, June 13 at the CPA Airport Field.

Beautify CNMI recognizes Steward and Champion Awards winner each year in Spring. Nominations are taken from the community at-large and the Beautify CNMI Committee Chairs select winners. Past winners include Aqua Resort Club, Friends of the Mariana Islands, Marites Castillo, Kathy Yuknavage, Captain Carl Brachear, Adam Sablan, Katie Busenkell, Rose Callier, Mike Tripp, Marianas Dive, Nava Khorram, Max Aguon, Paseo de Marianas Promoters, and Bree Reynolds.

Beautify CNMI! is a coalition of concerned citizens, private groups, and government entities united to enhance the CNMI's natural beauty and foster community pride in its residents and visitors. The coalition was a recipient of a 2007 EPA Environmental Award and received a Certificate of Commendation from the United States Congress in 2009. For more information visit them online at

Monday, June 8, 2009

Carnival of the Blue 25

The best in ocean blogging this month can be found at Carnival of the Blue 25, hosted at Blogfish this month. Carnival of the Blue 25 represents the beginning of a third year of ocean-related blog carnivals. Woot!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Nereus Reaches Challenger Deep

nereus woods hole submarineI hope you are following Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Twitter. Over the last few days they have been exploring the bottom of the Marianas Trench with a robot submersible called Nereus.

bottom of the marianas trenchThey have reached the bottom several times now and have already released a single photo to whet the appetite of science geeks across the world.

Including our local paper the Saipan Tribune, this feat of science and technology is being reported in a number of international publications including: New Scientist,, US News & World Report, Discover Magazine, RedOrbit, National Science Foundation, Insciences Organisation, and Newswise among others.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Friends of the Monument elect Directors

A diverse group of individuals -- a lawyer, a teacher, a dive instructor, a former president of the local college, a former director of the Division of Environmental Quality, a small business owner and a community organizer -- have been elected as the first directors of the Friends of the Monument.

The Friends of the Monument previously had three officers, but the group is expanding as the role of their organization expands.

“Last year our main focus was building local support for the monument and showcasing that support to the decision makers in Washington, DC,” explained Director Ignacio Cabrera.

The organization has plans to set up as many as six committees to fulfill the vision they outlined in their October 2008 Vision Statement, but for now will focus on three areas: Outreach & Education, working with the local government, and working with the federal government.

“Our organization plans on being involved with the management of the monument,” said Director Agnes McPhetres. “It is so important that the people of the Marianas, and not just a handful of political appointees, get to have their say in how this monument is managed.”

The new Directors are Cabrera, McPhetres, Bryan Jones, Jane Mack, Laurie Peterka, Mike Tripp, and Angelo Villagomez. The directors will elect officers during their next Board of Directors meeting scheduled for this month.

The Friends of the Monument were the main proponents of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument, a 95,000 square mile marine protected area designated by President George W. Bush on January 6, 2009. More information of the Friends of the Monument can be found online at

Monday, June 1, 2009

Bottom of the Ocean

The Wood's Hole expedition that is testing out a new unmanned submersible called Nereus is diving to the bottom of the Marianas Trench TODAY! They had a dive last night and made it to 10,900 meters. They are looking to repeat this feat later today.

Follow them on Twitter for up to the minute updates on their progress.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Woods Hole

Angelo has reported that Woods Hole is now conducting its deep sea investigation at the Marianas Trench.

You can follow the reporting real-time on Twitter.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Friends of the Monument on ABC

In April the Friends of the Monument were on NBC. This month we're on ABC, that's the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

The interview is about what else in this interview? The Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.

Angelo Villagomez was interviewed for the program and it played on the Pacific Beat program on May 19. It may or may not play on the local NPR, but anyone anywhere in the world can listen to the program online.

Click HERE to listen to the interview.

You can listen to the entire 19 minute podcast to hear how it sounded on the radio. It is the last story, starting at about 17 minutes.

A longer, less edited version of Angelo Villagomez' interview can be found HERE. It is 3:34 minutes long and does not include the lead in to the story.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

New Merchandise

I ordered some Marianas Trench Monument merchandise on yesterday. This golf shirt is $17.99.

This baseball jersey is also $17.99. mailed it out today and it should arrive in a few days.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Nominate an Ocean Hero

I can think of a few people living on Saipan that would make good candidates for Oceana's Ocean Hero award. From their website:
Oceana is accepting nominees for its first Ocean Heroes Award. This award was created in honor of a recent action by the United Nations recognizing June 8 as World Oceans Day.

Seventeen years and thousands of petition signatures after it was originally proposed, World Oceans Day will now and forever be a day to celebrate our oceans. We hope to pay tribute to the passionate, dedicated fish-huggers disguised as normal civilians and we need your assistance to expose their true identity. Please help us find our inaugural Ocean Hero.

See a full description of Oceana's Ocean Hero Award here.
Click HERE to nominate an ocean hero

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Carnival of the Blue 24

carnival of the blueCarnival of the Blue 24 is now live at Sea Notes, the blog of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. This month's carnival features the best in ocean blogging from across the globe.

My contribution this month is the NBC Nightly News story on the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument from two weeks ago.

Monday, May 4, 2009

MINA Annual Meeting

The 2009 MINA general membership meeting will be held on Thursday, May 7, 2009 from 5:00PM to 8:00PM at the 13 Fishermen's Pavilion on Beach Road in Garapan. We would like to invite all of our members as well as the general public to join us, and learn about the opportunities and challenges facing MINA in 2009, as well as our accomplishments in 2008.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Join the USFWS Marianas Trench Marine Monument List

I'm posting this news from Angelo:

US Fish & Wildlife Service is the federal agency charged with managing the Marianas Trench Marine Monument. In order to help them with their initial local outreach during the upcoming scoping period, they are trying to build a contact list of interested residents.

If you are interested, the US Fish & Wildlife Service will add you to their contact list and will keep you up to date with news from the USFWS concerning the Marianas Trench Marine Monument. Send them an email at and include your name, email, phone number, and mailing address.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Awards Ceremony

We hosted a beachside barbeque on Monday night to thank the Friends of the Monument for all the work they did to support the creation of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument. We handed out "2009 Engaged Citizen Awards" to all of the members. Below are some of the members accepting their awards.

Ike Cabrera was the first award winner of the evening. Ike has been on four trips to the states on behalf of the Friends of the Monument, earning him the "Most Onepass Miles Earned" Award.

Heinz Hofschneider was given a "Special Award for Legislative Courage" for his early support of the monument.

Alexie wrote the Boon or Bane article for Island Locator Magazine. The article explored the issues of the monument from both sides. Since the monument is now a reality, she was awarded the "Boon or Bane Award."

Bryan Jones kick started our school outreach program. He also sent a number of photos to Washington, DC of student volunteers working to build support for the monument. He was named the "MTMNM Photographer of the Year."

Mike Tripp brought a tear to everyone's eye as he gave his speech after winning the "Canadian Heartbreaker" Award.

Laurie Peterka was given an award as the "Oreo and Angelo Babysitter." I will not comment on that award further.

Ken Kramer quit his job to work on supporting the monument, so he was the winner of "Best Sacrifice of a Job." His wife Monique was given a "Most Patient Spouse" Award.

Ruth Tighe was given the "Mightiest Pen" Award for her many columns and letters to the editor during the course of the year. Nobody can zing 'em like Ruth Tighe.

Harry Blalock discussed the monument on his radio talk show almost every day in 2008. He was the recipient of the "Best Radio Face" Award. His wife Kelli received a Lifetime Achievement Award for "Most Patient Spouse."

Jane Mack received the "John Gourley Smackdown Award" for her many letters to the editor refuting his many letters to the editor. This was the most coveted award of the evening.

Wes Bogdan traveled to American Samoa on behalf of the Friends of the Monument earlier this year to testify on Wespac's involvement in drafting regulations for fishing inside the monument boundaries.

MarjaLee Taitano was one of our most consistent volunteers last year. She came to all our meetings and helped us collect signatures for our petition. She's originally from some country in Europe (never really figured out which one), so she was the recipient of the "Best Accent" Award.

Cinta was awarded with the "10/20 Turnout Award" because of the huge number of people she recruited to come to the White House public workshop on October 20, 2008.

Gus Kaipat was given the award for "Best Use of Music as a Lobbying Tactic." When the Federal officials came to Saipan in October 2008 to discuss the monument, the Friends of the Monument greeting them in the lobby of their hotel. While the Friends lined the driveway entrance to the lobby, Gus was strumming away at his ukulele and singing. It was a magical moment.

Agnes McPhetres was named "Toughest DC Lobbyist" for the trip she took to Washington, DC in August 2008 and for her "strength of character" during our meetings with James Connaughton and other Federal officials in October 2008.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friends of the Monument on NBC

The Friends of the Monument were featured as part of a series on the ocean that played on NBC Nightly News during the week of Earth Day.

NBC also put together a piece called, "Voices from Saipan," that is viewable only on the Internet.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Final Tally

We're done tallying up the final numbers for the Island Wide Cleanup. It is funny to think that several weeks worth of work are going to boil down to a sentence like, "27,070 lbs of trash were picked up by 4,140 volunteers from 61 volunteer groups at 54 adopted sites." I guess that's what this kind of stuff comes down to in the end.

So those are our official numbers. Here they are again:

Number of volunteers participating: 4,140
Weight of trash removed: 27,070 lbs (13.5 tons)
Volunteer groups participating: 61
Number of adopted sites: 54

There are too many people to thank for our success, but my Thank You letter is a start.

Friday, April 17, 2009

2009 EPA Environmental Award

Ike and I accepted the 2009 EPA Environmental Award today on behalf of the Friends of the Monument.
U.S. EPA Honors 4 Environmental Heroes from Hawaii, Pacific Islands
Release date: 04/16/2009

Contact Information: Wendy Chavez, 415 947 4248

40 groups and individuals recognized for outstanding achievement in protecting the environment

SAN FRANCISCO -- During the agency's 11th annual Environmental Awards Ceremony in San Francisco today, U.S. EPA acting Regional Administrator Laura Yoshii recognized four organizations and individuals from Hawaii and the Pacific Islands in recognition of their efforts to protect and preserve the environment in 2008.

“It is a great pleasure and honor that we can recognize the innovative and important environmental work achieved by this year’s impressive group of organizations and individuals, and the example they set for all of us to follow,” Yoshii said. “This year's winners and nominees have made superb efforts to protect and preserve our air, water and land, and increased awareness of the environmental challenges we all face.”

The Pacific Southwest’s Environmental Awards program acknowledges commitment and significant contributions to the environment in California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii, Pacific Islands and tribal lands. Forty groups and individuals were selected from over 200 nominees received this year from businesses, local, government officials, tribes, media, environmental organizations and community activists.

The Hawaiian and Pacific Islands winners are:

Laura Andersen
West Hawaii Youth Fisheries Council
Hualalai Academy
Kailua-Kona, HI

In an effort to clean up local beaches, smoking was banned at all Hawaii County Parks in 2008. This was a result of several years of efforts by middle and high school students of the West Hawaii Youth Fisheries Council at Hualalai Academy. The council first initiated a law to ban smoking at Kahalu'u Beach Park. As part of a beach clean-up, they collected over 2,000 cigarette butts in 30 minutes at the beach to demonstrate the magnitude of the problem. They spent months doing research, gathering petition signatures and testifying more than six times before the Hawaii County Council. The students helped write the bill to ban smoking at the beach park, which was approved unanimously at every step. Kahalu'u Beach Park was the first smoke and tobacco-free beach on the Big Island of Hawaii, and Hawaii was the first county in the state to ban smoking at all county parks.

David "Buddy" Nobriga
West Maui Soil & Water Conservation District
Kahului, HI

Born and raised on his family farm in Maui, Buddy Nobriga has dedicated over 50 years to the conservation of Hawaii’s natural resources. In 1956, he founded the West Maui Soil and Water Conservation District, the first in the county. His passion for protecting the environment of West Maui has had lasting benefits for the watershed. In recognition of his strong leadership skills and commitment to the community and the environment, Nobriga was appointed to many state boards and commissions. Nobriga, now retired, provided the needed leadership on the importance of controlling polluted runoff. The EPA is deeply grateful for his leadership, zeal, guidance and solid support for advancing the polluted runoff program and his devotion to environmental stewardship.

Friends of the Monument
Saipan, MP

Friends of the Monument was formed to help promote the idea of creating a national marine monument in the waters around the three northernmost islands of the Northern Mariana Islands. The Friends of the Monument engaged in activities to help educate the community --distributing leaflets, conducting meetings, and coordinating with teachers for classroom presentations. The organization gathered more than 6,000 signatures on petitions in support of the designation of a Monument. The Friends sent representatives to Washington, D.C. to meet with White House officials, and participated in television and radio public service announcements and advertising. Ultimately, they were instrumental in the process that resulted in former President George W. Bush designating the Marianas Trench Marine Monument, along with three larger national marine monuments.

Betwin Alokoa, Karl Olson and Mercy Muña
Guam EPA Pesticides Program
Barrigada, GU

The Guam EPA Pesticides Program, led by Betwin Alokoa, Karl Olson, and Mercy Muña, often goes above and beyond what is required. They’ve been instrumental in preventing unlawful pesticides from entering Guam ports, being sold on the island, and applied to crops. Their notable achievements include completing revisions to the 25 year-old Guam Pesticides Act, and getting quick approval by the legislature and governor. They followed up with 14 stakeholder meetings to explain the new requirements, and their experiences in the field are reflected in the new, more protective laws. They’ve also increased the number of pesticide inspections at farms, resulting in improved compliance and better protection for consumers. In addition, they’ve trained Guam’s customs and quarantine officers to detect illegal pesticides to prevent them from coming ashore, have provided similar training for customs, quarantine, and health officers in the Northern Mariana Islands.

For the complete list of winners, visit: Beginning today and throughout the coming weeks, a series of blogs will feature several of the winners at:

Nearly 4000 Ready to Beautify CNMI

The largest island-wide cleanup in Micronesian history is set to begin in a few short hours. From the Marianas Variety:
4,000 volunteers are set to hit the streets and beaches of Saipan in what is expected to be the largest islandwide cleanup in Micronesian history, a media release stated.

“The support the community is showing us has been tremendous,” explained co-organizer Angelo Villagomez of Pew Environment Group. “We have businesses, government agencies, schools, and even families registered to participate.”

As of Thursday afternoon, 51 volunteer groups had adopted 48 sites around Saipan. According to Beautify CNMI volunteer Ken Kramer, “The cleanup we organized in 2006 had 32 volunteer groups. This one is nearly double the size.”

Deputy Secretary of Labor and Beautify CNMI founder Cinta Kaipat had a reminder for all participants: “Don’t forget to take before, during, and after pictures of your cleanups. We will post these on the Beautify CNMI blog and the two groups with the largest number of volunteers and most trash collected will win $100 each. We’ll use the photos submitted to determine the winners.”

The Division of Environmental Quality, the Rotary Club of Saipan, the Marianas Visitors Authority and the Marianas Tourism Education Council are the co-organizers of the islandwide cleanup. Supplies were donated by MVA and McDonald’s.

For more information on the how to participate in the cleanup, contact Joe Kaipat at 664-8500 or Angelo Villagomez via email at .

A list of all participants can be found by visiting

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Carnival of the Blue 23

carnival of the blueCarnival of the Blue 23 is now posted at Deep Sea News. I contribute regularly to this blog carnival, having hosted twice.

A Blog Carnival is a particular kind of blog community. There are many kinds of blogs, and they contain articles on many kinds of topics. Blog Carnivals typically collect together links pointing to blog articles on a particular topic. A Blog Carnival is like a magazine. It has a title, a topic, editors, contributors, and an audience. Editions of the carnival typically come out on a regular basis (e.g. every monday, or on the first of the month). Each edition is a special blog article that consists of links to all the contributions that have been submitted, often with the editors opinions or remarks.

Carnival of the Blue is published on the first Monday of each month. Topics relate to the ocean and conservation, hence the 'blue.' Next month it is hosted on Sea Notes, the blog of the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

$900 in prizes made available to schools

The island wide cleanup that is being planned for next Friday was independently planned by three separate organizations. I wrote about organizing an island wide cleanup on The Saipan Blog for the Rotary Club back in January. In February I got an email from DEQ saying that they were planning an island wide cleanup as part of the Commonwealth Earth Day celebration. Then last month, Marianas Tourism Education Council (MTEC) contacted me to let me know that they were also planning an island wide cleanup in April. All three groups had been planning their separate cleanups for some time, it just took us a while to find each other.

When we found that we had similar goals, we immediately decided to work together (this is back in February) and started roping in other partners. Marianas Visitors Authority agreed to donate $1500 for supplies and Tan Holding, the largest employer on the island besides the government, pledged to have all their companies participate (three hotels, several restaurants, an insurance company, a newspaper, among others).

In the classic Beautify CNMI spirit, each group donates that which they are best at donating. I'm a great organizer. DEQ has government contacts and staff and trucks for hauling garbage. MVA has media people. Tan Holdings and the schools have volunteers. MTEC, MVA, and the Kramises in Washington have money. All our donations of time, talent, money, and manpower come together to make for a great event.

A big part of MTEC's involvement is giving support and financial assistance to the local schools. They donated $1000 towards the cleanup effort. They originally offered to split the $1000 equally between the schools and Beautify CNMI, but I asked them to change it to $900 for the students and only $100 for us. The way I figure it, I'm really good at scrounging up supplies and volunteers and if there is money available for students, better to support the students.

They issued a press release about their donation today.
MTEC Offers Top Schools Cleanup Incentives

Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) – Personal responsibility in having a clean tourism destination is being highlighted by Marianas Tourism Education Council (MTEC), as the group announces cash incentives for Northern Marianas schools that join the Earth Month Island-wide Cleanup on April l7, 2009.

In addition to $100 donated to event organizer Beautify CNMI!, MTEC is setting aside $900 for the Public School System to be divided among the top schools with the highest percentage of student turnout for the cleanup.

“Keeping our islands beautiful is an important part of supporting tourism, and we encourage all schools, especially those with MY WAVE (Welcome All Visitors Enthusiastically) clubs to have their students join the April 17 event,” said MTEC Chairman Ed Cho. “MTEC is pleased to support this year’s cleanup and help encourage a clean environment for visitors and residents, alike.”

Beautify CNMI partners Division of Environmental Quality, Rotary Club, and Marianas Visitors Authority are inviting all residents to plant a tree, paint over some graffiti or cleanup a road or a beach during the event. Cleanup over the weekend is also encouraged for people not available on April 17. Assistance with gloves, trash bags, and trash transfer are also available from Beautify CNMI!

Sign-up forms will be the basis of awarding the MTEC incentive. Forms are available from Rotary Club member and event co-organizer Angelo Villagomez at

A complete list of participants for the cleanup can be found at As of today (April 7), six spots have been adopted by eight organizations, accounting for 136 volunteers.
The coordination of the cleanup is going very well. As of 8:31 AM on Wednesday, April 8, we have 11 sites adopted by 13 different groups representing 591 volunteers. We are about 1/10 of the way there with 9 days to go to continue building excitement. I'm optimistic that we'll reach our goal of 5000 volunteers!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

More NBC Photos from Angelo

The Friends and the crew.

Agnes McPhetres gets interviewed.

Ike showing the camera crew the view at Bird Island. They're shooting B-roll in this photo.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Angelo's NBC Photos

Grille Masters Angelo Villagomez and Ike Cabrera.

The NBC crew with Angelo Villagomez and Kimberly Vaillancourt at Hopwood Junior High School.

saipan sunsetThe crew shoots the sun setting over the Saipan Lagoon.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

More NBC Photos

Friends of the Monument's Aya Matsumoto has photos from our BBQ with the NBC film crew on her blog, Isa CNMI. Just a warning - the blog is in Japanese!

Friday, April 3, 2009

sign up for the Island Wide Cleanup

I am working with the Division of Environmental Quality, Marianas Visitors Authority, Rotary Club of Saipan, and Marianas Tourism Education Council to coordinate an island wide cleanup for April 17, 2009.

The concept for the cleanup is simple: If several thousand people spend just a couple of hours doing something to improve the islands on the day of the cleanup, the following morning the islands will look pretty nice.

This will make our islands look pretty snazzy in time for Earth Day and for Tourism Month in May.

The coordinators are asking people, businesses, government agencies, schools, and homes to spend an hour or two doing a cleanup at anytime on Friday, April 17, 2009. If you want to adopt a beach that is great, but we are encouraging people to adopt the area near their place of business. Governor Fitial has agreed to allow ALL government agencies to participate during working hours. More information on that should be forthcoming from DEQ and the Governor's Office.

I hope you can participate. I've created a simple signup sheet that will help us track our activities. If you would like me to send you one, please email me at angelovillagomez at gmail dot com. After you fill it out, please either fax or email it back in.

Island Wide Cleanup sign ups begin

The first 50 people have signed up for the Island Wide Cleanup slated to take place on April 17, 2009. The Saipan Mayor’s Office and the Office of Personnel Management were the first organizations to turn in their sign up sheets.

The Office of Personnel Management has adopted the Garapan Fishing Base and has pledged to recruit 20 volunteers to help beautify the area. Likewise, the Saipan Mayor’s Office has adopted Beach Road from Afetnas to Koblerville and has pledged 30 staff for roadside trash collection.

“Our first two signups adopted the roads and areas near their offices. This is what we envisioned when we started planning this cleanup,” said co-organizer Joe Kaipat of Division of Environmental Quality. “We hope to get at least 5000 volunteers this year,” he added.

According to the organizers, the goal of this year’s island wide cleanup is to recruit at least 5000 volunteers to spend a few hours beautifying the islands, whether it is by picking up litter on a road or beach, painting over graffiti, planting a few trees, or participating in some other activity.

The cleanup organizers are encouraging participants to adopt a spot near their homes, offices, or schools, although some organizations will adopt beaches and/or tourist sites.

The organizers are encouraging the community to get involved as much as possible.

Event co-organizer Angelo Villagomez said, “It would be great if we could get a few families to adopt the roads near their homes. We want people to take ownership and responsibility for the upkeep of their areas of the island.”

The Marianas Visitors Authority is providing funds for garbage bags, rubber gloves, and some paint and the Division of Environmental Quality has pledged to assist with transferring solid waste collected to the transfer station in Lower Base. Supplies, if needed, will be available for pickup at the Division of Environmental Quality.

Division of Environmental Quality, Rotary Club of Saipan, Marianas Visitors Authority, and Marianas Tourism Education Council are the co-organizers of the island wide cleanup.

For more information on the how to participate in the cleanup, contact Joe Kaipat at 664-8500 or Angelo Villagomez at 285-6462 or via Email at

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Welcome to the NBC Team

Sunset, 3/30/2009, at Micro Beach, Saipan
Welcome to the NBC News team that is here from Bangkok, Thailand to do a story on the Marianas Trench Marine Monument.
Waan Chomchuen (production coordinator), Ian Williams (Asia Correspondent), and Kyle (whose last name and official title I didn't get--so Angelo help me out) (cameraman):
hafa adai and bienvenido.
We appreciate the interest and look forward to seeing the results.
Kyle filming; Agnes, Brian, Stacey and others on sidelines

Monument supporter kids at the table!

Mike Tripp, Anna Rose DLG, and Ian Williams

Anna Rose with Waan Chomchuen

Kyle filming Ruth Tighe, Kimberly Vallaincourt, Jacinta Kaipat, Ike Cabrera (Lauri Peterka partially hidden)

Kyle and Anna Rose

Photos by Jane Mack and Anna Rose DLG.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Former First Lady Thanks Friends of the Monument

Agnes McPhetres and Laura Bush
Monumental moment: Friends of the Monument's Agnes McPhetres presented then-First Lady Laura Bush with Mariana Trench t-shirts on the day the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument was created by then-President George W. Bush.
SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands – Former First Lady Laura Bush recently wrote to the Friends of the Monument thanking them for their role in supporting the creation of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.

The letter, embossed with the official White House seal reads, “We are pleased that you joined us at the White House for the signing of the proclamation to create the Pacific Marine National Monuments. Your gifts will always remind us of your support throughout the process that led this special occasion.”

Friends of the Monument’s Agnes M. McPhetres presented then-first lady Bush with two orange Mariana Trench Monument t-shirts after the monument declaration signing in Washington, DC on January 6, 2009.

The former first lady added, “Conservation and protection of our ocean resources is vitally important to our nation and the world. I am proud of the accomplishments of my husband’s Administration to protect America’s oceans. He joins me in sending best wishes to your organization for future success in advancing marine conservation.”

The letter from the former first lady included an autographed photo of her and former President George W. Bush.
Friends of the Monument’s Angelo O. Villagomez said of the letter, “I am really proud of our people. We are showing the world how local actions can have global consequences. Even the former President of the United States and his first lady know about our work here.”

The Friends of the Monument were the main proponents for a marine monument in the Marianas. When local elected leaders were not receptive to the idea of a marine monument, the Friends started a petition drive and collected over 6000 signatures from local residents. They also gained endorsements from the business community and prominent community leaders.

The islands’ political establishment ultimately supported the monument. According to a statement issued by Governor Benigno R Fitial on the day of the designation, “I welcome President Bush's historic announcement establishing the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument…Over the past few months, I have been actively engaged in discussions with the White House Council on Environmental Quality regarding the objectives and scope of the proposed monument. I have been joined in these discussions by President Pete Reyes of the Commonwealth Senate and Speaker Arnold Palacios of the Commonwealth House of Representatives.”

When asked about what he was going to do with the letter, Friends of the Monument’s Ignacio V. Cabrera said, “I’m going to hang it on my wall at home so that I can remember all we have accomplished.”

Angelo Villagomez
Silly grin: Friends of the Monument's Angelo Villagomez and the letter from Laura Bush.
Friends of the Monument officers Agnes M. McPhetres, Ignacio V. Cabrera, and Angelo O. Villagomez were on hand to witness the historic monument declaration this past January.

The Friends of the Monument formed in the Spring of 2008 to express the voice of the local community and consists of a cross-section of indigenous and resident people of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands who are dedicated to the conservation, preservation and protection of marine flora, fauna and geological features of the oceans; and the creation and proper management of a Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.

More information on the Friends of the Monument and the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument can be found at

Update from the Wespac Meeting

Friend of the Monument's Wes Bodgan traveled to American Samoa to testify at the Wespac meeting there this week. Posted below is his report to the group.
Among all the others items on the agenda, and there were many, today was the hearing date on the new Monuments and what is going to happen as seen by WESTPAC's Counsel Members.

With respect to the Marianas Trench Monument, US Fish and Wildlife will take the lead with drafting the Monument Management Plan (NEPA scoping to start this June)(will be the most important document), but NOAA and WESTPAC will be involved as they are charged with the fishery management part of the situation (recreational sustenance cultural fishing regulations and definitions). Small political exchanges/maneuvering between the various Counsel members representing different interests. Will need to watch exactly how this goes.

WESTPAC staff were instructed to draft "draft" regulations and a letter to our new President asking that the proclamations creating the new Monuments be changed to allow co-management in all three for Amer Samoa, CNMI and Guam.

My presentation basically stressed the Friends of the Monument history and desires, I also mentioned the bad political situation going forward for the supporters of the Monument in the CNMI as two WESTPAC Counsel members were/are openly against the creation of the Monument (as well as the fact that are local government only supported the Monument when it appeared that it was going to be created no matter what they did). So, I suggested there could be a conflict with these members...maybe they shouldn't vote on the Trench stuff. Threw in a little criticism of WSTPAC in general and the place went silent for a few moments. But nothing seems to really phase this body.

So, tried to turn back to the positive and suggested Fish and Wildlife seek input from NGO's in Saipan to gain a real appreciation of what the citizens and residents of the CNMI really want to have happen now that the Monument has been created. Still it became very clear during a later question and answer and comment period that our two representatives on the counsel are pushing the old agenda items like: having who ever the governor name as advisory counsel members being recognized as government officials; recreational/sustenance and traditional fishing definitions to mean whatever they want it to mean; and if, and as soon as, the CNMI Govt gets its 3 Mile Coastal Zone - it be opened for fishing or whatever else they want. Not good, but nothing new.

Long day, but the overall positions of the Friends of the Monument were made known and a few people were appreciative of our bringing forward and public our position on the Monument.

See you soon,


Sorry I'll miss this Friday's get-together.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Front Page News

Saipan Tribune front pageThe news of the Friends of the Monument winning an EPA Environmental Award was top of the fold front page news in today's Saipan Tribune. Thanks to everyone who sent me in their quotes for the story and I apologize to those who didn't get their's in. I had already sent in the story by the time I got your quote.

Congratulations to everyone involved in our success. I'm hoping that someone can travel to San Francisco to accept the award on behalf of all the people that helped.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Friends of the Monument to be Recognized by EPA

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands – The Friends of the Monument were informed this week that they are to be recipients of a 2009 EPA Environmental Award on April 16. The award seeks to recognize individuals and groups outside of the EPA who are making significant contributions to improve the environment. Jane Mack of the Friends of the Monument was the first person notified about the award.

"I was really excited to receive the dawn telephone call from Wendy Chavez at EPA, telling us that Friends of the Monument would be recognized as an award winner," Mack said when asked about the award. "I nominated the community organization for special recognition because the Friends worked hard and its members put their hearts and souls into the campaign for a monument. The Friends efforts directly contributed to the eventual designation of the Monument by President Bush."

The award is open to people and groups who are working all across California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii, the Pacific Islands and tribal lands to protect public health and the environment. This year over 200 nominations were made, but only 40 winners will be recognized.

“It is an honor to be recognized by the EPA for our work. This is an award the Friends will share with all our supporters, especially the Pew Environment Group,” said Friends Chairman Ignacio V. Cabrera about the award.

On January 6, 2009, then-President George W. Bush declared 190,000 square miles of ocean as marine monuments, closing parts of them to mining and commercial fishing, including the 95,000 square mile Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.

The Friends of the Monument were the main local proponents of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument. They worked to build and showcase local support to convince then-President Bush to declare a monument around the three northernmost islands in the Marianas archipelago.

“In less than a year, the Friends of the Monument grew from an idea into the most powerful grassroots movement in the Mariana Islands,” said Jay Nelson, Director of Global Ocean Legacy with the Pew Environment Group. “It was amazing to see a such an outpouring of genuine support for the marine environment.”

The Friends of the Monument waged an old-fashioned door-to-door grassroots campaign to build support for the monument.

Wesley Bogdan, a local attorney and one of the Friends of the Monument said of the monument declaration, "The creation of the monument shows that the system can work, that the people actually do have the ability to affect their government to some degree. The Friends of the Monument's hard work and receipt of this award from EPA can help spread that message and hopefully encourage more people to get involved and work on projects important to their community."

Initially local leaders were not receptive to the idea of a marine monument, so the Friends started a petition drive and with the help of 60 volunteer petitions gatherers, collected over 6000 signatures from local residents.

They also made presentations to local junior high school, high school, and college students, which resulted in over 500 handwritten support letters being sent to President Bush.

During a White House sponsored workshop, the Friends recruited over 400 supporters to attend. Most were wearing orange, as the workshop took place during the Friend’s sponsored WOW Week – Wear Orange Week.

They worked with the local business community and signed 206 businesses on to support the monument, including the Chamber of Commerce, Hotel Association of Northern Mariana Islands, Tan Holdings, DFS, and McDonalds.

They also organized a letter writing campaign in support of the monument. Over 100 current and former community leaders sent letters to then-President Bush in support of the monument. Constitution writers Dr. Joaquin A. Tenorio and Karl T. Reyes and business leaders David M. Sablan and Manny S. Villagomez were among the prominent letter writers.

Officers of the group also traveled to Washington, DC on two occasions to meet with federal officials and national media outlets.

Mike Tripp, a local dive operator commented about the grassroots campaign, "If it were not for the Friends of the Monument, the monument designation would never have happened. The organization stands as proof that individuals coming together for a common cause can truly effect positive change in their own backyard, and also for the benefit of the planet".

The Friends of the Monument formed in the Spring of 2008 to express the voice of the local community and consists of a cross-section of indigenous and resident people of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands who are dedicated to the conservation, preservation and protection of marine flora, fauna and geological features of the oceans; and the creation and proper management of a Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.

More information on the Friends of the Monument and the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument can be found at

Jane Lubchenco Confirmed as NOAA Administrator

According to NOAA, "Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., was confirmed by the U.S. Senate this evening as the under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere. In this capacity, she will serve as the ninth administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the nation’s top science agency for climate, oceans, and the atmosphere. Dr. Lubchenco is the first woman and the first marine ecologist to lead NOAA."

This is great news for the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument and marine conservation in general!

Great News-Award Winner!!!

I got a phone call this morning from Wendy Chavez of the Environmental Protection Agency.

FRIENDS OF THE MONUMENT has been selected as a winner for the region 9 awards this year! YAY! She said it was a "tight" competitive process, and that more than 200 nominations (in all categories) were received and 40 winners selected. Awards ceremony will be April 16, 2009.

I received the notice because I nominated the organization for the award.

Congrats to Friends of the Monument!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Angelo Villagomez thanks supporters

Thank you

One year ago I introduced the concept of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument to the people of the Marianas with the following words:

“It is the responsibility of every indigenous person to ensure that these islands are passed down to the next generation in the same condition in which they were passed down to us. I take that promise seriously. This is how I practice my culture.” (Practicing My Culture, Saipan Tribune, March 20, 2008)

The monument as proposed to the public had several months worth of input from government and environmental leaders in the Marianas. Prior to the announcement I had set up a meeting between Secretary of Department of Lands and Natural Resources Ignacio Dela Cruz, Senior Policy Advisor Ramon Mafnas, then-Representative Cinta M. Kaipat, and Jay Nelson of Pew Environment Group (August 2007). I also arranged a presentation by Pew Environment Group to the Mariana Island Nature Alliance at one of their public meetings (November 2007) and personally briefed the three heads of the local government’s natural resource agencies, Sylvan Igisomar of Division of Fish & Wildlife, Frank Rabauliman of Division of Environmental Quality, and John Joyner of Coastal Resource Management (December 2007). The monument was also discussed in several Beautify CNMI meetings, which are open to the public and announced ahead of time. Additionally, a letter outlining the concept of a monument was also sent to Governor Fitial in December 2007.

Additionally, one week before the public announcement I helped set up meetings with other government officials, including a presentation to a joint session of the Legislature and a meeting of the Governor’s Military Task Force, Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy Commission, and Strategic Economic Development Council in which over 40 government, business, and community leaders attended (March 2008).

Input was taken at every meeting and led to the following proposal, which was eloquently captured in a letter to the editor by Cinta Kaipat on May 1, 2008. The proposal was to “create federally funded local jobs, give a needed boost to our struggling tourism industry, bring positive worldwide attention to our shores, and most importantly, protect three of our islands and their surrounding waters for generations to come.” (Marianas Trench Marine National Monument, Saipan Tribune, May 1)

The announcement was made in a letter to the editor and was followed by a series of 115 public meetings in conference rooms, meeting halls, pala palas, bars, classrooms, restaurants, people’s homes, and offices on the islands of Saipan, Tinian, and Rota.

During this process 6000 local residents exercised their First Amendment rights and petitioned President Bush to create the monument. 500 students wrote hand written letters containing their concerns and hopes for the monument. Over 400 people participated in a public meeting hosted by the White House to gather comments, the first of its kind in the Commonwealth. 206 Business owners and managers signed a petition in support of the monument and about 100 local people wrote letters and emails to the President.

Many of our local private institutions supported the designation of the monument, including the Chamber of Commerce, Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands, Tan Holdings, Mariana Islands Nature Alliance, Beautify CNMI and Marianas Dive. The Saipan Tribune also endorsed the monument in an editorial.

Finally, Governor Fitial, Senate President Reyes, and House Speaker Palacios in an eleventh hour turn around came to support the monument. The monument would not have been designated had they not come on board. This was repeated at every meeting and despite claims by Wespac officials to the contrary, ultimately proved true.

Early on there was some confusion as to the role of a private institution and government. The process to create a monument was always something that would occur between governments. Although the Pew Environment Group and Friends of the Monument would have loved to have been at the so-called negotiating table, this process was always going to take place between the duly elected leaders of the Commonwealth and the United States and their appointed representatives. The role of the private institution was to provide information and public education, with a little political pressure for good measure.

It has been nearly three months since the Marianas became home to one of the world’s largest marine protected areas, the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument, yet the process to draft a management plan has just begun.

By April 6 the Secretary of Commerce will select a five person Marine Monument Advisory Council. Three of the council members will be government officials of the Northern Mariana Islands. They will be chosen in consultation with Governor Fitial.

Following the selection of the Advisory Council, the United States Fish & Wildlife Service will begin a scoping period where the public will have more opportunity for input.

With that said, everyone who was involved in getting us to where we are right now deserves a hearty pat on the back and a well-deserved thank you. I cannot think of any other issue that has engaged and inspired so many people and brought so many people together in recent memory. People who can usually not agree on anything came together to support this project. I admit that there were some people out on the fringes, but the vast majority of our people were behind the monument on the day it was designated.

Our community should be proud of what we have accomplished. Thank you to everyone who was involved.

Angelo Villagomez
Gualo Rai