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Opposition to the 2008 Pew national monument campaign in the Marianas Islands
Time period: November 2007 to 5 January 2009

Photo: We Want Local Control Protest

  The Pew Environment Group (Pew) launched an arrogant and culturally insensitive environmental   campaign in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI) during late 2007. Pew's   objective was to convince the people of the CNMI to support their monument proposal in order to   create a 'blue legacy' for former President George W. Bush prior to his leaving office in January   2009. The Pew national monument, as it was locally called, involved the permanent conversion of   over 115,000 square miles of waters within the CNMI Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) into   basically a 'no-take' marine preserve. Pew wanted to create another Papahanaumokuakea Marine   National Monument (Hawaii) in CNMI waters.

Photo: The No Pew Panel The 2008 Pew campaign was based primarily on half-truths and  promises of supposed benefits the CNMI would receive from the federal Government. The approach they took to 'educating' the Marianas was to lecture down to us as if we were children. Instead of incorporating concerns raised by the indigenous community and their leaders into their monument plan; Pew basically ignored all arguments that didn't fit with their 'no-take' and 'anti-fishing' agenda. Therefore, their original monument proposal remained unchanged throughout the campaign.

The following quote from Mr. Joshua Reichert, Managing Director of the Pew Environment Group, exemplifies the attitude of the Pew monument campaign: "I don't want someone who knows the facts, or can articulate them persuasively; I want someone who wants to win and knows how." Source

Photo: Cartoon by HFN   There was strong opposition to the Pew monument proposal beginning when it was first presented   publicly during a strategic planning workshop held during November 2007 by the Mariana Islands   Nature Alliance (MINA); an environmental non-government organization based in Saipan. It was   very obvious to some that Pew's monument proposal was nothing more than an unjustified ploy to   permanently take away fishing and extraction (e.g., oil, gas, and mineral) rights from the Marianas   people and give it to a federal agency that would follow Pew's preservationist management   requirements under the guise of environmental protection. The Director of the Pew Global Ocean   Legacy Program (Mr. Jay Nelson) tried unsuccessfully to convince MINA to take the lead in their   monument campaign. In true Pew form, he even offered to provide operating funds to sweeten the   deal for MINA. Although support was divided at the Board level, MINA ultimately decided to   decline Pew's monetary 'donation'.

Photo: Sign - No Want No Need
Supporting the strong opposition by the indigenous communities and CNMI Government to the Pew monument proposal were leaders from Guam, Republic of Palau, Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of Marshall Islands. Also brought out in their jointly signed letter of opposition was the insensitive approach that Pew adopted in forcing their proposal on the people of the Marianas. In the end, the Pew monument proposal was outright rejected by the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) on behalf of the White House. The current Marianas Trench Marine National Monument is the result of one-on-one negotiations between CNMI Government leaders (Governor Benigno Fitial, Senate President Pete Reyes, and House Speaker Arnold Palacios) and the CEQ. Only then were the concerns of the local indigenous population appropriately addressed.

Photo: Cartoon by HFN   On 6 January 2009, the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument was unilaterally created by former   President George W. Bush in Presidential Proclamation 8335 under the powers granted to his office by the   Antiquities Act of 1906. Despite the rhetoric from the environmentalists, I believe the real reasons for   designating the Pacific monuments include: (1) it created a 'blue legacy' for former   President George W.   Bush who left office with a less than stellar environmental record; (2) it was a cheap and easy gift to pacify   the whining of US mainland environmental organizations; (3) the Pacific region was a soft target with few   people and even less political clout; (4) it further supported the Global Ocean Legacy program (offshoot of   Pew Environment Group program) goal of establishing 3 to 4 large "no-take" ocean preserves; and (5) it   firmly establishes US sovereignty in the Western Pacific in coordination with the US military buildup in the   Marianas.

Photo: John Gonzales Talk Show The purpose of this project is to get the opposition's story out to the public. Their version of what was happening in the Marianas was often mis-characterized (or completely ignored) by US mainland media who appeared to follow the lead of full time spin-doctors employed by the well organized and funded environmental groups supporting the monuments (e.g. Pew Charitable Trusts). Their media experts crafted public information in a manner that presented exactly what they wanted the public to hear. The Marianas monument campaign is a classic example of political environmentalism at its worst. has assembled most of the pertinent opposition information that chronicles
the Pew monument campaign in the Marianas. We hope it will educate those who believe the Pew monument campaign was conducted in a fair and impartial manner - as Pew would have you believe. Additionally, it will also provide the gory details on the deceitful campaign practices practiced by Pew and their followers in order to create the illusion that there was broad grass-roots support for the Pew monument plan.

We in the Marianas hope that other communities never have to experience what we had to go through with the Pew Environment Group.

Marianas Conservation
Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands
June 2009

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