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 marianamonument@gmail.com. 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 http://marianamonument.blogspot.com.

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.