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We believe the sustainable use of our natural resources is an achievable goal when (1) the science-based decision making process becomes the foundation for resource management programs (2) meaningful community input is not only pursued, but encouraged, and (3) we embrace our
strong Pacific Island culture and traditions.

GUEST QUOTE OF THE MONTH BY: Mr. Joshua Reichert, Director Pew Environment Program
"I don't want someone who knows the facts, or can articulate them persuasively; I want someone who wants to win and knows how."


 2 October 2010


Just prior to leaving the White House in 2009, former President George W. Bush signed three Presidential Proclamations that designated over 195,274 square miles of waters surrounding the U.S. Pacific islands as marine national monuments - the Marianas Trench, Pacific Remote Islands and the Rose Atoll. Combined with the waters surrounding the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, which he proclaimed as a monument in 2006, Bush designated a total of 335,694 square miles of Pacific island waters - an area larger than his home state of Texas - as marine national monuments.

All these monuments were created through the Antiquities Act. This one-page, 104-year-old congressional law gives the president broad unilateral powers to convert federal lands (and waters) to national monuments without having to answer to Congress. Using this Act, the president bypassed the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act, the need to comply with transparency guidelines, meet sound scientific standards, identify funding, and actively involve affected communities.

This Act epitomizes the top-down approach in governance and has become the weapon of choice by environmental groups who wish to impose their agenda on others with political expediency and minimal community interference.

Conditions for a perfect storm materialized during 2007 when well-funded environmental advocacy groups promised an environmental legacy to a lame duck president with a poor environmental record. When the storm subsided, the United States had three new monuments, all in the western Pacific. In return, the Pew Environment Group bestowed an environmental blue legacy on President Bush just days before his administration ended.

Seven months later, attorneys James Walsh and Gwen Fanger[1] discussed potential legal issues surrounding the use of the Antiquities Act in establishing marine monument boundaries out 50 nautical miles for fishery management purposes. First, as a domestic statute, the Act contains no congressional authority for the designation of monuments seaward of the 3-nautical-mile territorial sea. Second, the act does not supersede the congressional authority given to the Magnuson-Stevens Act for the management of fishery resources in the EEZ. As one who was involved in opposing the Pew monument proposal in the Marianas, I can unequivocally state that fishery management issues were a significant factor in their attempt to justify a no-take Marianas Trench monument.

Walsh and Fanger concluded that the 2009 Pacific monuments were designated,"in a manner that disregarded existing law and procedure and prevailing local sentiment in order to make a symbolic statement of questionable environmental effect."

More recently, Mark Laemmle[2], while studying at Villanova University's law school, investigated the "appropriateness of employing the [Antiquities] Act to the area that now constitutes the Pacific Monuments to promote conservation and sustainable fisheries." Acutely aware of the controversy created by Pew in the Marianas, Laemmle noted that use of the act for conservation purposes is supported by those who "promote the blatant disregard of state and local interests and advocate broad federal action to quickly and expeditiously address the perceived imminent dangers to the oceans."

Along with Walsh and Fanger, Laemmle believes the Magnuson-Stevens Act and the National Marine Sanctuaries Act are more appropriate fishery management/conservation tools as they "balance local cultural and economic interests, including the fishing industry, with the goal [of] ocean conservation." Laemmle found the Antiquities Act to be "an inefficient, haphazard way to correct poor fisheries management or to effect conservation, as well as an undesirable way to establish marine protected areas."

Pacific Island culture is synonymous with the sustainable use of marine resources. The indigenous people of the Marianas have come to the painful realization that creation of the Marianas Trench monument had nothing to do with preserving their culture or science-based conservation.

Congress passed the Antiquities Act to stop looting and the destruction of archeological sites. It's time to retire its use as an environmental strong-arm and start embracing science, transparency, and meaningful community support and involvement in the quest for sustainable resource use.

[1] Walsh, J. and G. Fanger. 2009. "Presidential Bans on Commercial Fishing the Pacific Marine Protected Areas: A Politically Popular but Unlawful Regulatory Action?" ABA Marine Resources Committee Newsletter (August); Vol. 12(3).

[2] Laemmle, M. 2010. "Monumentally inadequate: Conservation at any cost under the Antiquities Act" Villanova Environmental Law Journal Vol. 21(1); 111-158 pp.

John Gourley
Northern Mariana Islands, USA

NOTE: This opinion piece was written by an environmental consultant and long time resident of the Northern Mariana Islands. It was originally printed in National Fisherman (August 2010) and re-printed in Marianas Fishing (August/September 2010) and the Marianas Variety newspaper (14 September 2010).

 June 2009


Just when you thought it would be safe to go fishing again, the Pew Environment Group and their alter ego, the "Friends of the Monument" (Friends), attempted to convince CNMI Delegate Gregorio "Kilili" Sablan to significantly modify the existing Marianas Trench Marine National Monument (Marianas Monument) to reflect their wants. The Marianas Monument was created on January 6, 2009 to assure former President, George W. Bush's environmental "blue legacy." Using powers granted his office by the Antiquities Act of 1906, the President unilaterally designated a significant portion of the Marianas archipelago as a marine national monument in Presidential Proclamation 8335. In a letter dated 17 April 2009, the Friends pressed our Congressman to pass federal legislation that would improve (their word) upon the Marianas Monument. Even though their action would detrimentally affect a significant portion of indigenous people living in the Marianas archipelago, the only person that the Friends copied in their letter was CEQ! Not surprisingly, Pew wants to greatly expand the existing boundaries of the Marianas Monument around our three northern-most islands and, of course prohibit all commercial and recreational fishing throughout all areas of the Monument. Not satisfied with those suggested draconian changes, Pew also wants to change the existing co-management assignment between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (DOI) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA) to solely that of the National Marine Sanctuaries Office (NOAA).

Figure one shows the present limitations for fishing activities in the Marianas Monument identified by Presidential Proclamation 8335. The second figure shows the fishing prohibitions that are being pushed by the Pew Environment Group/Friends of the Monument.

Our local newspapers carried several stories about the friends monumental request Saipan Tribune 5-8-09, here, and here. Governor Fitial sent letters to Congressman Sablan, Secretary Salazar and the House Speaker/Senate President asking for no action on the request. Public opposition was immediate with Mr. John Gourley writing a Letter-to-the-Editor; Ms. Ruth Tighe's retort followed shortly.

Latest update from Congressman Sablan's office: The Friends held a conference call with Congressman Sablan's office on 12 May 2009 and were informed that the Congressman "has no intention of reopening the negotiations that has already taken place between the Friends of the Monument, the Governor, and the White House on the designation and implementation of the Monument ." It is our understanding that the Congressman wants to give the proclamation some time to develop and see what can and can't be accomplished under existing circumstances.

Thank you Congressman Sablan!

This will not be the last time that the Pew Environment Group or their supporters will attempt to take away
fishing rights from the people of the Marianas archipelago!

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