By John Davis
Published Jan 7, 2009
Using a law enacted more than a century ago, President George W. Bush declared the Marianas Trench and two other areas in the Central Pacific marine national monuments. As one of his last major acts as commander in chief, Bush gave close to 200,000 square miles the special designation, which includes the Marianas Trench - the deepest point on earth.
Said the president, "This decision came after a lot of consultation, consultation with local officials, consultation with prominent scientists, consultation with environmental advocates, consultation with the United States military and the fishing community."
Evidently not included however in the consultations, at least as much as she would have hoped, was Guam congressional delegate Madeleine Bordallo. She told KUAM News via phone, "We were a little disappointed with the manner in which the president signed this into law and that was through the Antiquities Act and rather than going through a process going through Congress."
The president in making the declaration of the marine national monuments said it was the capstone of his eight-year commitment to strong environmental protection and conservation, adding the monuments are receiving our nation's highest level of environmental recognition and conservation. The declaration prohibits resource destruction, or extraction, waste dumping, and commercial fishing.
"They will allow for research, free passage and recreation," said Bush, "including the possibility of recreational fishing one day."
According to the president's executive order, the departments of the Interior and Commerce, as well as the government of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, have been tasked to come up with rules and regulations to manage and monitor the Marianas monument. Those rules and regs will include the authorization for traditional access by indigenous people for culturally significant subsidence, cultural and religious uses within the monument.
CNMI delegate Gregorio Sablan said of the decision, "Regrettably the president has used his executive powers under Antiquities Act, he's done this so now we'll have to do work closely with White House, the people of Guam and the CNMI have a say in the development of policies that will manage the program. The monument per se isn't a bad thing, the devil is in the details. So we need to be careful on how we write-up those details."
The CNMI government and the federal agencies have been given two years to prepare the management plans, which will perpetuate this blue legacy that President Bush has left behind. "As further research is conducted in these depths, we will learn more about life at the bottom of the sea and about the history of our planet."