Friday, January 23, 2009

New Secretary of Interior

Ken Salazar has been confirmed as the new Secretary of Interior. All cabinet positions have been filled except for the Secretary of Commerce, which is still vacant as Obama's November nominee, Governor Bill Richardson, withdrew from consideration.

The Secretary of Interior and the Secretary of Commerce play key roles in the process of creating and managing the Marianas Trench National Marine Monument.

The proclamation designating the Marine Monument includes this language about authority:
The Secretary of the Interior shall have management responsibility for the monument, in consultation with the Secretary of Commerce, except that the Secretary of Commerce shall have the primary management responsibility, in consultation with the Secretary of the Interior, with respect to fishery-related activities regulated pursuant to the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) and any other applicable authorities.

The next two years will be dedicated to coming up with the management plan and implementing regulations.

Photo credit: NOAA, Jean Kenyon

To facilitate this process, there will be a Mariana Monument Advisory Council. The proclamation, as to this matter, reads as follows:
Advisory Council

The Secretaries of the Interior and Commerce, within 3 months of the date of this proclamation and after considering recommendations from the Governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of Homeland Security, shall establish the Mariana Monument Advisory Council to provide advice and recommendations on the development of management plans and management of the monument. The Advisory Council shall consist of three officials of the Government of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and one representative each from the Department of Defense and the United States Coast Guard.

Members of the Advisory Council will be appointed for a term of 3 years by the Secretaries of the Interior and Commerce after nomination by the head of the pertinent executive branch agency or, with respect to the officials of the Government of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, by the Governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The Advisory Council will adopt such procedures as it deems necessary to govern its activities. Each participating agency shall be responsible for the expenses of its representative and the Departments of the Interior and Commerce shall be equally responsible for the costs of the Advisory Council.

Thus, The Secretary of Interior and the Secretary of Commerce appoint the members of the Mariana Monument Advisory Council. But Governor Fitial nominates those members. He has nominated 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, as reported in the Marianas Variety.

The new Secretaries of Interior and Commerce will have to act on the nominations within 3 months. Although they will undoubtedly give serious weight to Governor Fitial's choices, they are not BOUND to appoint them. As noted above, the term for Advisory Council members would be for three years and at the critical beginning of the Monument.

Now is the time to let the Secretaries know what you think about these choices.

You can write to the Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar at

Ken Salazar
Secretary of the Interior
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington DC 20240

If you need help sorting out your thoughts on the nominees, check out Angelo's post, Lil Hammerhead's thoughts, and my personal blog opinion for background.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Nominate Your Choices for EPA Award

The EPA is accepting nominations according to this Saipan Tribune article for EPA's region 9 awards. The Tribune article isn't quite correct though: EPA seeks to honor environmentalists outside of EPA (not outside of the US). Anyone here in the CNMI or elsewhere in region 9 is eligible.

You can nominate your choices here. The categories for nominations include 1) Environmental, community and non-profit; 2) Federal, tribal, state, or local government; 3) Individual; and 4) Business, industry, trade or professional organization.

You'll need the full name, address, and phone number for any nominee, and be willing to give the same information about yourself. You'll also need to write 500 words in support of the nomination.

You can see my choices for the award at my personal blog here.

Tell us your choices!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Josh Reichert Editorial

This editorial has appeared in numerous publications across the nation.
With the stroke of a pen, President George W. Bush recently created three marine monuments in the Pacific Ocean, including one covering most of the famed Mariana Trench, the deepest place on Earth. Together with a monument established two years ago in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, this marks the end of an era in which humans have increasingly understood the need to conserve vanishing wild places on land but failed to comprehend the similar plight of our oceans. It comes none too soon.

Now, 137 years after the creation of America's first national park in Yellowstone, in 1872, we're finally recognizing that unique areas of the world's oceans deserve the same kind of protection. Industrial fishing, drilling, pollution, and now climate change, are rapidly transforming the world's marine domain.

An ever-dwindling number of places, many of which are remarkably fragile, have not been affected by people. If not protected soon, they will become part of the large toll that nature has suffered in the wake of human settlement and development.

The new monument designations encompass Rose Atoll in American Samoa, most of the Equatorial or Line Islands in the central Pacific and portions of the Mariana Islands. Covering almost 200,000 square miles, these three new monuments roughly equal the size of Spain.

Together with the earlier reserve in Hawaii, this president has protected more of the oceans' unique places than any other person in history.

The importance of these ecosystems cannot be emphasized enough. In the Marianas, perhaps the most significant of the monuments, coral reefs overlap with some of the world's most exceptional geology, creating the greatest diversity of seamount and hydrothermal vent life known to science.

It's the sole place on Earth with huge, active mud volcanoes, one more than 31 miles across, which are believed to harbor some of the oldest known life on the DNA tree. The second boiling pool of liquid sulfur ever discovered (the first is on Io, one of Jupiter's moons) lies within its waters, along with the only bird known to use volcanic heat to incubate its eggs, and the giant coconut crab — the largest land-living arthropod in the world.

The other monuments also harbor a remarkable array of life. Rose Atoll contains the highest percentage of live coral cover of any place on Earth, while the Equatorial Islands host some of the largest populations of apex predators found in the oceans.

The remoteness of these places might seem to offer them protection enough, but the march of human society is steadily opening up areas long considered to be impenetrable or simply not worth the trouble. In 1857 the leader of a War Department expedition described the Grand Canyon as ''altogether valueless,'' adding that ''after entering it there is nothing to do but leave.''

Fortunately, President Theodore Roosevelt thought otherwise. Designating it a monument in 1908, he called it ''a natural wonder which, so far as I know, is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world.''

''Leave it as it is,'' Roosevelt urged. ''You cannot improve on it, and man can only mar it. What you can do is to keep it for your children, your children's children, and for all who come after you.''

The same rings true for these unique areas of the oceans protected by President Bush today. In weighing the long-term benefits to the marine environment and to the American people of protecting these places before they are ruined, the president decided they are worth more intact than whatever commercial benefits might be derived from fishing, drilling or mining them.

The president's decision is a tribute to common sense. We will gain immeasurably more from having these places kept safe than we would from plundering in the short term whatever commercial resources they might contain. Moreover, there is an inherent value in wild places that transcends their importance for science, education, recreation and the ecosystem services they provide — although these are reason enough to leave them be.

We value them precisely because they have not been shaped by us, but reflect the natural world when left to its own devices. Thankfully, this president, and most Americans, want to see some places on Earth remain this way.

Joshua Reichert is the managing director of the Pew Environment Group.

Federal Register

Thanks to Angelo for the link: you can read the notice in the Federal Register here

Friends in Washington DC

friends of the marianas trench marine national monumentThe Friends of the Monument met Jean Michel Cousteau and Sylvia Earle at the signing of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Signing of Marine Monument

Bush Designates Monument

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A Monumental News Note

I've put up a recap of links that relate to the CNMI's marine monument and the campaign Friends of the Monument waged for its designation at my personal blog. You can see it here.

If you have links I've missed that you think I should add, please let me know.