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 http://marianamonument.blogspot.com.

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 http://marianamonument.blogspot.com.

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

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Media Books are in

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Link to this blog

micronesians in island conservationDuring the 11th Micronesians in Island Conservation Retreat I was tasked with taking over the learning network's blog found at http://mic-network.blogspot.com. I've fiddled with the template and the colors a little bit here and there over the last two weeks and I'm liking the new look.

My first change was to turn the background from a solid green to a picture of two fishermen in an outrigger canoe. What says connecting islands better than a canoe?

I also added a Sitemeter counter, some frequently asked questions, contact information, and changed things around a bit so that the site is easier to navigate (at least to me). In the past I've done a few widgets for organizations I've done work with (i.e. a logo that links to your website). I used that code to add logos that link to Friends of the Monument, Micronesia Conservation Trust, and Beautify CNMI. I'll add a few more logos as work progresses on the blog, including the html code so that you can link to those websites, too!

As for the color scheme, I offer the fact that I am color blind as an excuse.

I encourage you to add a link to the Micronesians in Island Conservation blog. In the upcoming months we should be adding some great conservation stories from the whole of Micronesia. You heard it here first.

Carnival of the Blue XXII

carnival of the blue 22Carnival of the Blue XXII is now live at Rick MacPherson's Malaria, Bedbugs, Sea Lice, & Sunsets. It has been a while since I've submitted a post for Carnival of the Blue, not like I don't post something about the ocean every single month, but I managed to get my act together this month. Enjoy!

Micronesia Challenge on Facebook

micronesia challenge on facebook
Are you a member of Facebook? Would you like to be the envy of all your friends? There is now a Facebook Fan Page and a Facebook Group for the Micronesia Challenge. Join today!

Both the Fan Page and the Group allow users to post comments on a discussion board, upload photos and video, suggest links, and leave comments. The Fan Page allows the administrator to write notes or, as I prefer to do, syndicate a blog feed. I am syndicating the Micronesians in Island Conservation blog until there is a Micronesia Challenge blog. The thing I like best about both is that the administrator has the ability to send messages to every member of both the Group and the Fan Page. This will come in handy, especially once the membership gets into the thousands.

Additionally, the Fan Page links to Fan Pages for the Micronesian governments that have signed onto the Micronesia Challenge: Palau, Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands. It also links to a Fan Page for Beautify CNMI, an environmental coalition in the Marianas supportive of the Micronesia Challenge. I will link to other non-profits working on the Micronesia Challenge once someone sets up their Fan Pages. (Pehaps we can do this at the next MIC retreat or maybe the next steering committee meeting?)

So what are you waiting for? Log into Facebook and join the Facebook Fan Page and the Facebook Group for the Micronesia Challenge.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Micronesia Challenge Logo

Micronesia Challenge LogoThe logo was developed by Luke, an artist in Yap, and incorporates the creativity, compassion and, perhaps most importantly, the true culture of Micronesia. While the basic design is of a turtle with an "M" as the front fins and a "C" as the body, the logo also incorporates the overall aspects of air, sea and land and has come to mean different things to different people with some saying they see an island, some a bird in flight and still others seeing waves. "Micronesia" is in blue to match the "M" in the logo and "Challenge" is in green to match the "C." This logo is now the official logo of the Micronesia Challenge.