News, updates, finds, and stories from staff and community members at KAHEA.
Showing blog entries tagged as: Monument

News, updates, finds, stories, and tidbits from staff and community members at KAHEA. Got something to share? Email us at:

Three New Marine Monuments?

Posted by Miwa at Jan 06, 2009 05:46 AM |
Filed under: ,

From today’s Washington Post:

President Bush will create three new marine national monuments in the Pacific Ocean Tuesday, according to White House spokeswoman Dana Perino, designated areas that will span 195,280 square miles and protect some of the most ecologically-rich areas of the world’s oceans.

The decision to make the designations under the Antiquities Act, coming just two weeks before Bush leaves office, means that he will have protected more square miles of ocean than any person in history. In 2006 Bush created the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, an area of 138,000 square miles.

Two of the areas encompass a region known as the Line Islands, a relatively isolated and uninhabited string of islands in the central Pacific. The third area, in the western Pacific, includes the waters around a few islands in the northern Marianas chain and the Mariana Trench, the deepest ocean canyon in the world.

Both regions boast enormous biodiversity: Kingman Reef and other islands in the central Pacific area teem with sharks and other top predators as well as vibrant, healthy corals; the Mariana Trench and its nearby islands are home to several species of rare beaked whales and the Micronesian megapode — an endangered bird that uses the heat from volcanic vents to incubate its eggs — and also boast mud volcanoes, pools of boiling sulfur and the greatest microbial diversity on Earth.

“The president’s actions will prevent the destruction and extraction of natural resources from these beautiful and biologically-diverse areas without conflicting with our military’s activities and freedom of navigation, which are vital to our national security,” Perino said. “And the public and future generations with benefit from science and knowledge. The President has a strong eight-year record of ocean conservation, and these new designated protected areas will comprise the largest area of ocean set aside as marine protected areas in the world.”

While not all areas within the designated monuments will be fully protected — slightly less than 60 percent of the total will be subject to prohibitions on fishing and other extractive activities — environmentalists praised Bush for the move.

“With the designation of these new marine monuments in the Marianas Islands, American Samoa and the western pacific, George Bush has ushered in a new era of ocean conservation in the United States and the world at large,” said Josh Reichert, managing director of the Pew Environment Group. “It has taken 137 years, since the creation of America’s first national park in Yellowstone in 1872, to recognize that unique areas of the world’s oceans deserve the same kind of protection as we have afforded similar places on land. And none too soon.”

White House press briefing:

Are they hoping nobody would notice?

From Marti:

Late in the day on December 23rd, the final version of the Monument management plan was quietly published on the Papahānaumokuākea website.  No press release. No email to the list serv.  Just a quick post on the eve of the Eve of Christmas, which just happened to get picked up in a google alert days later.

Given all the eco-mojo the Bush Administration has tried to squish out of this “blue asterisk,” you would expect a mighty deal be made of finally finishing the management plan two years later.  The fact that the release was so secretive has gotta make you wonder what’s actually in it.

On their website, James Connaugton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality is quoted as saying:

“When President Bush first designated the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in June 2006, his goal was to move beyond just thinking about conservation to carefully managing this important area.”

Yikes! What does the federal government mean exactly when it says “move beyond” conservation?

Well, from what we see in the plan it means:

  • no limit on military activities affecting Monument resources (not even a discussion of what it would take to abide by the proclamation and “minimize and mitigate” half-pound pieces of fiery shrapnel hitting Nihoa).
  • no ban on bioprospecting, which is the taking of public trust resources for exploitation and profit by corporations, academic institutions, and private individuals.
  • no limit on the number of people that can access and/or take from this “no take” reserve.
  • no assessment of the cumulative risks and impacts of past and anticipated human activity in the Monument.
  • no public advisory council, which has been key in forcing transparent & accountable decisionmaking.

Over 50% of the proposed 355 million-dollar budget is for government operations and research, while a mere 12% goes to reducing existing threats, like clean-up of marine debris and legacy military contamination. The plan also fails to allocate sufficient resources for Native Hawaiian involvement in Monument decision-making, and leaves decision-making to a closed-door Monument Management Board.

The plan essentially abandons the “precautionary principle,” which was a hallmark of the State’s visionary pre-monument protections that required biological, cultural and historic resource integrity be favored when the impacts of any proposed activity were uncertain.

So while the revised vision, mission, and goals now commit to conservation as the purpose of the Monument, you can see that the actions to implement this plan remain largely unimproved over the weak draft released earlier this Spring.

When the draft version of this plan was released, the National Wildlife Federation, the Center for Biological Diversity and more than a dozen other organizations–representing well over 5 million people–joined KAHEA in strongly criticizing the management plan.  Despite two years of advocacy, and thousands of public letters and comments calling for a stronger, more protective plan, it is apparent that our united call for a true pu‘uhonua didn’t fit with the federal government’s vision for the future of “conservation” in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

So, here’s our take – a quote for the papers  – on the federal government’s attempt to “move beyond” conservation:

“This is conservation on paper, but not in practice. They have reshuffled the goals to say ‘full conservation’ but their proposed actions speak louder than their words. They are exempting increased military exercises proposed for this extremely delicate ocean habitat from management. They are proposing increased tourism, new construction, and extractive research without adequate public oversight and Native Hawaiian consultation,” said Marti Townsend, Program Director of KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance.

To learn more about this issue, including a detailed review of the draft plan, visit our website at:

Document Actions

Empower grassroots efforts to protect Hawaiʻi with your donation today.

E-mail Sign-up
Follow Us