Today NPR is reporting that a move is afoot for President Bush to declare a series of marine monuments including the one being suggested here in the Northern Mariana Islands.
Like it or not, this is the beginning of some international press. I only hope it will be good, positive press for the CNMI.
I also take this as a step in the right direction. The CNMI has made it on a short list of places to be looked at and this, in my opinion, is a good thing. There are many benefits to the process moving forward even if, at the end of the day, the people of the CNMI determine they don't want it at this time.
Some will try to raise hairs on peoples backs by suggesting that Bush will do this even if the CNMI says no. I can only counter with this.....
I think it is highly unlikely he would do something that controversial since, by all accounts, he has a few other places lining up for his autograph. According to the NPR report Jack Sobel, a senior scientist at the Washington-based Ocean Conservancy confirms that among the specific criteria laid out by the White House was the need for areas where "they could do (it) without tremendous political blow back … [but] would have a conservation impact."
So for this to happen it must come from the people of the CNMI: the people who can see the benefits of such a designation and how it will improve the life of everyone who lives here or comes to visit for a week, a year or even a lifetime.
The administration is also quoted in the NPR report as saying public hearings will be held. Again, it is my belief that once the people of the CNMI see how they can have a seat at the table with the ability to make policy decisions, not only in drafting the proclamation but also with regard to the rules and regulations that will govern them, many of the fears being suggested will disappear.
To the average person here there will be much more upside to having a monument now than what is purely speculative with regards to commercial fishing and other resource extraction efforts some time in the distant future. Commercial fishing has a high likelihood of doing significant damage and the chance of any oil and gas, geothermal or magnesium module extraction occurring within the 200 mile US controlled waters is next to nil.
So if it happens, if the Bush administration does decide to take a serious look at the CNMI then I hope everyone will grab their chair and ask for a seat at the table, especially the Carolinian and Chamorro elders. Those that understand the ways of the past so that future generations can be sure they will be around for eternity. At this point, it seems the process is now with the White House administration which will sift through the various agencies and see if the Northern Mariana Islands are a place where resources will be spent to determine if it is possible to reach an agreement. Similarily the people of the CNMI owe it to themselves to take a look at this and use whatever is learned along the way as part of the path to their own plan should one be developed in the future or the White House comes calling again in 4 or 8 or 12 years......
A marine monument surrounding the 3 northernmost islands of Asuncion, Maug and Uracas can be a very good thing for the CNMI IF the people of the CNMI define what exactly that monument is. To those who really believe Bush will do this without your input then perhaps you should stand up and put your two cents in anyway so you can help determine exactly what the monument will look like should it become a reality.For more of my thoughts on this monument concept please click on the Northern Island Marine Monument tag / label below.