Thursday, May 22, 2008

Marine Monument - Get Informed

Another day another letter to the editor in the local papers. I shouldn't really complain since for the last two or three days my own letters have taken up full pages in both the Tribune and the Variety. Click on the links to check them out here, here.

Just before I sat down to do a post today I thought I had better check the papers. I already knew I wanted to write something about the information sessions being conducted by Pew and to comment on some of the views (both positive and negative) expressed during the initial ones on Monday.
Above you can see Jay Nelson form the Pew Charitable Trust as he speaks at the fisherman's association forum held at American Memorial Park (AMP). Here he comments on the wide range of international exposure and positive press the people of Hawaii received when their monument was designated.
The crowd was not large but their was a clear mix of supporters and non-supporters. There was a mix of fisherman and non fisherman. I'm glad that everyone was able to listen to William Aila (below) and ask questions. I'm not sure everyone left completely happy but I think everyone other than the Wespac folks now have a better understanding as to the process involved and how the people of Hawaii embraced and even pushed for their own monument.
William is a long time harbormaster on the Waianae coast of Oahu and commercial fisherman. He is well-known as an advocate for indigenous Hawaiian rights and works closely with the group Na Imi Pono. In 2006 he ran for Governor of Hawai'i in the Democratic primary. William was intimately involved in advocating for the protection of the NW Hawaiian Islands for Native Hawaiian cultural and religious reasons from the late 1990's through today and remains active in the decision body empowered to manage the NW Hawaiian Islands. He brings to the table a varied and extensive background in fisheries management with ten years of service on various Wespac advisory panels.

He is here to give a true first had account as to the Hawaii experience and to answer questions. He is not hear to sell the proposal but rather let people make an informed decision based on what actually happened and not scare tactics.

It is obvious from the most recent letter to the editor by Richard Benevente Seman entitled Leave all conservation measures to the people of the NMI that some are very, very, very mis-informed. Please Mr. Seman come to the information session and open forum tonight. It is at AMP and will be hosted by the Saipan Chamber of Commerce and moderated by Harry Blalock. Mr. Seman, you owe it to your kids and in fact my kids to come out and hear the truth.

It would take me a very long time to completely dissect his letter today and point out all of the inaccurate statements but I'll focus on two.

1) He says that the people of the CNMI should be involved in the process in the beginning not before it starts, not when everything is already put together.

Mr. Seman this IS the beginning and this is the time that you and other local residents should be asking for a place at the table so you are ready when the process between the Federal government and the people of the CNMI actually starts. Right now Pew is here to assess the willingness of the people to look at the monument concept and to educate us as to what a monument designation means. It is then their job to report to the White House people at which time if things are favorable President Bush's people will contact ours and the process will officially begin. You can make the choice to kill this before it starts or you can reserve your seat at the table, it's up to you.

He goes on to state....
(Pew) Developed and drafted a proposed national monument for the CNMI without any collaboration with anyone;

Nothing is drafted, they are floating a concept. A concept that, if you open up your mind, you can develop into something you want.

I'll dissect this next entire paragraph from his letter with one picture and only a few words.

For 30 years since we have become a U.S. commonwealth, the CNMI have been able to enact constitutional mandates, legislate laws and promulgate rules and regulations in the name of CONSERVATION without the aid and delegation of OUTSIDERS. Our people have led in the region in enacting conservation measures for the protection and sustainability of our natural resources. Our commonwealth has more designated marine sanctuary, wildlife conservation islands and more prohibited fishing gear than any other government in our region. Simply said, we are proactive when it comes to the protection of our natural resources. We can honestly say that we do what we need to do to ensure that our resources are used sustainably for the sake of our future generations".

Ok two pictures....
The top one shows the fishing line that divers pull form our Grotto dive site nearly every day. The second one a typical pile of batteries we find along the shore line during our Marianas Dive clean ups. It's worth mentioning that the Grotto is a marine sanctuary and to suggest that it is well managed as such is coming from someone with a bag over their head. Even the people at DFW know it is not well managed. They complain of not having enough money to do it properly. A Marine Monument designation for the Northern Islands would see money available to properly manage a vast area of the ocean that is NOT managed now. To suggest the people of the CNMI can do it on their own without federal money is a recipe for disaster, or I suppose, success if you're a foreign fishing vessel looking to pillage other peoples waters.

As far as not needing outsiders. How about taking a look at the make up of people currently employed at DFW, CRM and DEQ. Although there are a number of good local people there are also, many, many non indigenous people who you actually depend upon for the services these agencies provide. The marine biologists from all these agencies are, according to your definition,"outsiders".

Perhaps if you used the monies appropriated for the marine monument by congress each year wisely the college could develop a marine biology program that would allow for the training of locals to do jobs currently held by the outsiders. Hmmmmmm what a concept.

Mr. Seman (and all those who buy into this crock) please come to the forum tonight at 6PM, American Memorial Park. You owe it to your kids.


RB Seman said...

Hi Mike,
I have to say say something with your references on my recent letter to the editor on the proposed National Monument. It appears to me now that whenever someone, especially indigenous mentioned the word Outsider, you tend to think of it as all non-indigenous person living in the CNMI. I'm not sure why but it surprises me just how quickly you make that kind of reference. For the record, Outsiders in my letter refers to organizations outside of the CNMI, such as PEW, Western Central Pacific Network, etc. As a former Director at DFW, I had recruited a lot of state-side biologists and other professionals for their expertise and the CNMI should continue to do so. However, in my letter I was very clear in that our own people (indigenous or non) and government should be calling the shots and initiating whatever is needed to take care of. After all, we are the one that have to live with it. We may not have the financial and human resources to do everything we need to but at least we can take pride that we are doing whatever it is within our choosing and desire. As small as we are as a commonwealth, we should not let ourselves loose sight of our inherent right to self government. If we do then might as well let the PEW and the President dictate the future of the CNMI in the same fashion the propose monument is being pushed through us. Mike, as I stated in my letter, Conservation and setting aside areas for conservation is very critical and necessary but we can not allow ourselves or anyone to do it without the direct participation of our people from the very begining. What PEW is doing is wrong and requires people who understand conservation measures to say something so that everyone can be able to understand both sides of the issue. Yes, I am both Chamorro and Carolinian and my heart is all out for the well-being of our commonwealth and I can honestly say that the indigenous people of the commonwealth are not ready to give up 1/3 of its entire water. By the way, I still like your blog.


Richard B. Seman

scubatripp said...

Thank you for your comment Mr. Seman I appreciate the clarification. I am also very glad to hear your definition of outsider. Unfortunately, I have let other people’s definition affect how I took your comments.
With that in mind I could not agree with you more that it is the people of the CNMI who should be calling the shots. As you say it’s these very same people (including myself, by your definition) that will have to live with the results. That is why I so strongly believe that we should allow the process to continue and allow for dialogue between the local people / government and the federal government. Even if this particular monument idea is rejected by either party when the time comes to do so the information gained along the way will be very helpful in the future no matter what is ultimately decided by the people of the CNMI.
For this reason I do not agree that Pew is doing us wrong. I do agree that they could have done a much better job at bringing the idea to the people but even there no matter how it was done you can’t please everyone. My understanding of the Pew role in all of this is to assess and educate. They are assessing the possibility of a marine monument here because the Bush administration asked these types of NGO’s to report back to them with possibilities. They picked the CNMI as one possible site for some very compelling reasons but I won’t address those here. In their role as a facilitator (remember nothing is decided until the feds come and talk to us) they are merely trying to set the stage for negotiations and dialogue. To that end I believe they are tying to educate us and perhaps dispel some of the inaccuracies that are being disseminated by people who want this dead before it even gets off the ground.

I also agree with you that the people of the CNMI are not in a position at this time to give up 1/3 of their EEZ to this concept. There is simply not enough accurate information for anyone to make a decision at this time, including myself. The decision I have made at this time is that the concept is worth listening to and it is worth the dialogue between the feds and the local people.
As you say setting aside areas for protection is an important step in conservation. We should take what we can learn from this process and apply it to any other concept or situation that may be developed or proposed in the future whether it be from Pew or a local body such as MINA or DFW.

I do not see the downside to exploring the possibility and all the potential benefits as well as potential pitfalls. It will not cost the people of the CNMI a cent and they can still say no at the end of the day. Unlike those trying to scare people I do not believe that if after discussions with the federal government people still do not want the monument that the president will do it anyway. This is not immigration or Iraq and he has no reason to make himself even more unpopular since he will have plenty of other places willing to accept the idea through to the end.

Again thank you very much for your comment and I hope you continue to read my blog, I’ve had too many post about this one idea lately and will need to get back to posting pictures and video for you to enjoy.


Lil' Hammerhead said...

Would WESPAC be considered an "outsider"?

Do you realize Mr. Seman.. that you do not control those waters right now? And that this proposal may actually give you some co-management authority over those waters?

Why aren't we in a position to give up 1/3rd of the EEZ right now? Wouldn't that be of immediate benefit. I would say so.. on many levels.

This one idea, is an important one. It is one that can have a positive effect in so many ways.. from redefining what the world thinks of the CNMI, to conservation, to tourism, etc.

The argument that "we should do this".. is a moot one. We can't. We can't even keep up the Ada Gymnasium. We can't provide for two more doctors. So, because of stupid pride, we are going to forego the help of others.. and end up with nothing?

It's silly.

Lil' Hammerhead said...

By the way Mike.. just incase this is your last post on this. Thank you. Thank you from all of us who care about the CNMI enough to look at the big picture, and forego silly turfwars, for something as positive as conservation and the marine monument idea.

It's a great idea. As much as I love my home.. the CNMI will never be in a position, fundingwise to maintain a marine sanctuary the way it will need to be maintained. Even during our economic "boom" we wouldn't have had the resources to do this.

We need to be realistic. If our oceans are important to us. If tourism is going to be our economic engine. If we want to redefine ourselves in the face of the world. If conservation is really important, and not just a pitch that's thrown around when we need a federal grant.. than we need to be open to the understanding that we cannot, even if we wanted to, maintain, or manage such a monument ourselves.

That doesn't mean the great idea of one, should simply be tossed to the wayside.

scubatripp said...

Thanks Lil.

Rest assured it is not my last post. In fact I've been writing for most of the last two hours. Here's a taste.

Forgive any proof reading issues not done that yet!

Northern Island Marketing Materials Good for all of the CNMI

How many people have been to the Northern Islands of Hawaii or the CNMI? We know that the number is very few. How many would like to see photographs and motion pictures of the region? We know the answer to that is who wouldn't! How much would such a trip with professional cinematographers, photographers and writers be worth to MVA, to the people of the CNMI who have lived here all their lives and wondered what it would be like up there. You know the feeling when you stand at the edge of Suicide Cliff on a clear day and can see Anatahan and perhaps even some ash! What’s it like? I know for a fact that before all this "opposition" arose Pew was ready to spend a lot of money to send a boat up there for that very purpose. To collect collaterals that will be used to produce anything one can imagine. For those who saw the film presented before the talk last night at AMP you had just a taste of what is possible. Instead of yelling at Pew for not doing things the way you think they should have why not ask them if this is still possible. Should the white house people want to take a look I would think with it on the table before it could be put back on. Who knows maybe its still in the deck. Just as aside, that video they showed last night has many of the same features we have right here so just in case anyone out there doubts that we can compete on a world stage we can. But, lets use all our cards. A film documenting the features above and below the surface up there would be quite valuable and entertaining as well as educational. With monument status there's just one more BIG reason for National Geographic and others to feature these islands more than once. Yes we could do it ourselves but who's going to fund it?

Saipan Writer said...

I'm sorry you're taking hits in the paper, Mike. I don't think anything you're saying is disrespectful, but I do think people will go the easy route and cry about being treated badly, rather than deal with the real arguments.

Mr. Semen, As Lil said, right now (and for the forever seeable future), the CNMI has ZERO legal control over the waters around Uracas, Maug, and Asuncion (as well as the other islands of the CNMI).

Pew is a global non-profit, looking at a world-wide problem-the extreme deterioration of Earth's oceans. Why shouldn't they come to different governments and propose solutions that would help the world? Australia hasn't complained about their approach. New Zealand hasn't complained. American Samoa has gone out of its way to try to get their attention.

What is it about us that makes us feel insulted when someone suggests something we didn't think of first?

Lil' Hammerhead said...

It is a lack of faith and insecurity in ourselves, as a community.

scubatripp said...

Thanks SW.

I cannot speak to why people feel insulted. The thing is there is serious mistrust of outsiders (people who do not live here) coming in and not really having a vested interest in their proposals so when things don't go well they just pull out, often leaving a mess for the local residents and government officials. At the very least they leave empty promises.

To deny this has happened or that the feeling is not genuine is also wrong. However, and this is the sad part, this attitude prevents truly good ideas, not just the monument concept but others as well, from becoming reality.

The other interesting thing is everyone always talks about big money investment from outside sources as the way to solve our problems. The governor won an election based on the belief he could deliver these types of investors on our way to better times. Yet one comes along that is actually going to use Federal money (our taxes) and it is shot down before it is even discussed.

This just does not make any sense except when you realize that this is not about the facts. It is about the scare tactics and false propaganda designed to send a wedge into the heart of the community.

According to those at DFW it is the proponents of the Pew concept that are the force behind this wedge but I must respectfully disagree with this completely. How does asking for dialogue and discussions with the Feds drive a wedge into our community unless of course someone from the other side attempts to prevent this from happening?

RB Seman said...

This is just to provide some understanding of the waters around the CNMI with regard to its jurisdiction. Firts of all, the reason why the US District Court ruled that the U.S. controls the entire 200 miles is because it was basing its ruling on the fact that the Northern Mariana Islands is not included in the statute that gives 3-mile territorial waters to the territories such as Guam and A. Samoa. The reason why the NMI is not included is because the U.S. has no authority to do so at the time. The NMI was under the U.N. Trusteeship just like the rest of the other Micronesian islands. The U.S. District Court does not have the power to include the CNMI in that statute to make it equal to Guam and A. Samoa, only U.S. Congress can amend it for the inclusion to which it will happen eventually. So it is not wrong at this time to consider at least the 3-mile as CNMI control.

By the way, does anyone know of a conservation area that is perfect in its ability to protect and enforce its purpose? Also, please be reminded that PEW is not to asses and educate as some of us think. Their role has is is to advocate. See their 2007 Annual Report and their article "Anotomy of Advocacy" (how they got the NWHI monument) in the 2006 MPA News.



Lil' Hammerhead said...

What is wrong with advocacy? And isn't advocacy part of education? Isn't assessment necessary to planning education and advocacy?

Anonymous said...

Tripp, you are so condecending. You think that if someone does no agree with you that they are misinformed, uneducated to the "facts" or unable to understand the concept? Aila is not some environmental volenteer (as Angelo used to call himself). He is on the Pew payroll through a number of organizations that they fund. Everything is not black and white. One thing is that the Antiquities Act is a unilateral declaration by the president that once enacted cannot be revoked except by an act of Congress. Public input, if any, will be minimal and will not result in much flexibility. Read the Act. Why dont we go the National Wildlife Refuge route??

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

Hi Richard,

Please let me know if you would like to set up a presentation. I can answer any questions you might have.


scubatripp said...

Anon, you bring up a number of issues / thoughts.

First if you think I’m condescending or that I don’t understand there are relevant and legitimate arguments to be made on both sides than all I can do is ask for you to sit down with me and have a discussion. I feel you will see I am open to hearing the concerns people have and in so doing will try to determine if the difference of opinion is based on fact or perspective or both it’s often a fine line.

You mention William’s on the payroll and that things are not always black and white. I have no doubt that he benefits one way or another from the funding that Pew provides various programs but, as we all know, it works both ways. In William’s case I’m of the opinion, after his many years of advocating for the protection and preservation of the environment, that he deserves to be compensated in some way. From what I could see he is well educated, well spoken and driven by his commitment to his family, to his people and to those who would like to see our planet survive for our grandson’s grandson’s.

I have read the Antiquities Act. Yes it is short and sweet. Pretty broad authority and only four sections.
Act 1 = Penalty = $500, 90 days prison

Act 2 = Declaration = smallest possible area of federal ownership to obtain desired protection. Private ownership if any is relinquished to the federal government.

Act 3
Permitting - things (tbd by the regulations) are aloud with approval...

Act 4
Governance = Secretaries of the Departments

In our case it is my understanding the land masses already have a level of protection and ownership from the CNMI and are not in question. With regards to governance it is my understanding that in the co-management model, should the CNMI government ask for it, there would, in effect, be a “secretary of the CNMI”. It is also my understanding that what’s in the proclamation is up for discussion even now. Thus, all the more reason to sit down with the Feds to ensure it reads the way the people of the CNMI want it to. That way no one is giving up anything and we all benefit from the increase in publicity and congressional funding that will follow.

As far as a National Wild Life Refuge, I’ll admit, I started to read their website and decided to come back here to ask you why you think this would be a better route. As I say I’m open to hearing the other side as long as you don’t tell me you’d rather see this hand folded up before everyone even knows what’s on the table or in the deck!