Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Marianas Trench Visitors Center

Alexie Zotomayor, one of the Friends of the Monument and the author of Boon or Bane, had a letter to the editor appear in the Saipan Tribune today.

Rebranding the CNMI as a destination

With the establishment of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument the CNMI has the opportunity to rebrand itself as a travel destination.

Although it is not a fully protected marine reserve, the monument is one of the world’s largest protected areas. This in itself is not something that will attract tourists to our shores. We have to give people a reason to want to visit the monument and our islands.

Saipan could sell itself as "The Gateway to the Mariana Trench." The stores in Garapan could sell t-shirts that read, "I dove the Marianas Trench." Maybe one day submersibles could take tourists to the underwater eruptions off the coast of Rota.

This will require a lot of work, and communities, businesses, and the government will have to contribute to the change.

One of the first steps toward this rebranding is for the federal government to build a Marianas Trench Marine National Monument visitors center. Half-museum, half-aquarium, the visitors center could and should be one of the premier tourism destinations in the Pacific.

I hope that our leaders on Capital Hill and in Washington, D.C. are working with the federal government to bring the visitors center to Saipan.

Alexie Villegas Zotomayor
Chinatown, Saipan
There is a concern among certain people that a lot of the benefits of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument will end up in Guam because the monument boundaries extend into some of the Federal waters close to Guam. The Bush Administration, through his Council of Environmental Quality Chairman James Connaughton, promised the CNMI that they would have a seat at the table (check), untold worldwide media attention (check), a visitors center, a research/enforcement boat, and federal jobs.

The NOAA Sanctuaries people in Hawai'i know about these promises because during the campaign the Friends of the Monument sent them copies of every letter they wrote. Since we assumed that NOAA Sanctuaries would manage the monument, nobody took the time to do any work with anybody at US Fish & Wildlife Service, so they probably have no idea what conversations took place during the process to create the monument. The situation is also complicated by the fact that the key people we worked with in the Bush Administration have since been replaced by the Obama Administration. Some of the key players haven't even been replaced yet, either, like the Secretary of Commerce.

The Friends of the Monument consider themselves the "guardians" of the Marianas Trench and they are going to work hard to ensure that the benefits promised to the CNMI come to fruition.

Monday, February 23, 2009

MIC Blog

Micronesians in Island Conservation (MIC) is a learning network of conservation leaders and champions. Their purpose is to strengthen the collaborative, organizational, technical, and policy skills of leaders and organizations so that, together with communities, they can advance the conservation and management of important natural areas in Micronesia.

The MIC Network blog chronicles some of their success stories.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Beautify CNMI Email List

I've spent the last two weeks getting Beautify CNMI back up to speed. I've started a Beautify CNMI Facebook fan page and I've updated the email list. We'll have activities all year in 2009. If you would like to be added to the email list, please email me at angelovillagomez at gmail dot com or call me at 285 6462 and I will add you.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Beautify CNMI Ambassador Program

Beautify CNMI was listed as one of the participating programs in the NMC Service Learning grant. The way it works is students donate their time in exchange for scholarship money. I met with the coordinators at NMC on Friday and we came up with a Beautify CNMI Ambassador Program. Basically the students would help me with coordination of Beautify CNMI, taking a load of my shoulders and learning some valuable organizing skills in the process.

Nobody has signed up yet, but about 10 students came to our cleanup of Laulau Beach yesterday, so I'm hopeful. This is the program summary I sent to NMC today:
Beautify CNMI Ambassador Program
For NMC students in the service learning program

Learn how to conduct an environmental public awareness and stewardship campaign.

Participants will:

-Coordinating with government and businesses, plan an island-wide cleanup in April
-Recruit and manage participants in the cleanup
-Work with participants to adopt their adopted site for at least one year
-Help sustain cleanup and other beautification activities after island-wide cleanup
-Work with newspapers, radio, TV, and other media to broadcast campaign message
-Contribute to Myspace, Facebook, blogs , and websites to further campaign goals
Hopefully you'll be reading about the Beautify CNMI Ambassadors in the newspapers in the next couple of weeks. I'll need to get them on board right away. The first island-wide cleanup meeting is this Wednesday at DEQ.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Post Declaration Update

The Marianas Variety has an article about the Friends of the Monument and the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument today.
Friends of Monument yet to decide if they will pursue original proposal

THE Friends of the Monument will not lobby the U.S. Congress to implement the proponents’ original proposal for the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.

Angelo Villagomez of the Friends of the Monument said even during the Bush administration their group did not lobby Congress.

“We worked with the Bush administration,” he said.

Ask if they will lobby the new administration of President Obama, Villagomez said: “That has yet to be seen.”

He said even if their group decided to move forward, they have yet to know who they will work with in the new administration.

He said what their group is interested to know the benefits that CNMI will get from the monument.

They want to see the establishment of a visitor center and the creation of federal jobs for local residents, he added.

The Friends of the Monument have yet to meet to discuss what next step they will undertake after the declaration of the monument, Villagomez said.

He is hoping that the CNMI leadership will seriously focus on the benefits that can be derived from the declaration of the monument, adding that the Friends of the Monument will continue to cooperate with local officials.

Last January, Gov. Benigno R. Fitial appointed three representatives to the advisory council for the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument — Benigno M. Sablan, a member of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council; Joaquin P. Villagomez, a former member of Wespac’s advisory panel; and Sylvan O. Igisomar, the director of the Division of Fish and Wildlife.

Villagomez commended the CNMI leaders and the White House for the monument declaration.

With the creation of the advisory council, he said he is hoping that the CNMI will continue to inform the people how the monument is going to be managed.
I don't know how the reporter got the idea that anybody was going to lobby the US Congress.

I also don't believe I said anything resembling the final paragraph of that story.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Secretary of Commerce Nominated

President Obama has nominated Judd Gregg (Republican Senator from New Hampshire) to be the new Secretary of Commerce.

You can read my thoughts here.