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From James Connaughton's Visit


James Connaughton, chief of President George W. Bush's Council on Environmental Quality, arrived in Saipan, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, yesterday afternoon in grand style in a military helicopter from Guam. He was greeted along the road leading from the airport by approximately 100 persons who oppose the President's proposed Marianas Trench Marine National Monument. The anti-monument members arrived in 30 cars from primarily the Carolinian community (see photo 1). Connaughton stopped the car he was in to greet many of the people (see photo 2) before continuing on to the Hyatt hotel. Monument supporters, or "Friends of the Monument" (the alter ego for Pew Environment Group), greeted Connaughton at the Hyatt. Approximately 65 supporters were waiting for him and wearing new bright orange "Mariana Trench Monument" T-shirts provided free by the Pew Environment Group.

The indigenous community will have another demonstration this afternoon when they go as a group to meet with Connaughton about the issues they have. Community concerns include permanent commercial and recreational fishing prohibitions, permanent oil, gas, and mineral extraction prohibitions, and the requirement to obtain written permission from the federal government to enter ancestral waters that have been under their control for thousands of years.

The monument is a controversial issue in CNMI, and tempers are getting shorter while many allegations remain unsupported.


Those opposed to the monument in the CNMI believe their viewpoints are being gagged by the press on the US mainland, where the fate of the Pacific islanders now lie, given President Bush's consideration of a Presidential Proclamation via the Antiquities Act of 1906 to designate one-third of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) waters (approximately 115,000 square miles) surrounding CNMI as part of the proposed marine monument. Although the claimed purpose of the marine monument is conservation, many believe it is simply US mainland politics associated with the creation of a 'blue legacy' prior to the President leaving office in January 2009. The proclamation would circumvent the environmental impact review and public input processes of the National Environmental Policy Act and was previously used by President Bush to designate the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) as the first marine monument in the US. The NWHI represents approximately three-quarters of the Hawaiian Archipelago.

The proposed Marinas Trench Marine Monument is particularly worrisome for those in the CNMI, as the US claims that the EEZ in the CNMI extends to the shoreline and that the CNMI has no jurisdiction over any local marine waters. Other US states and territories have jurisdiction over waters from the shoreline out to up to 12 miles from shore.

Those in the CNMI opposed to the proposed Marianas Trench Marine Monument believe the US mainland is breathing easier since all the proposed monuments in their waters (e.g., Gulf Islands in the Stream, East Coast deep sea corals) were dropped from the short list of marine waters to be considered for Presidential designation as a marine protected area. The list was proposed by non-government environmental organizations to the President at his request.

The Carolinian and the Chamorro are the two indigenous groups in the CNMI, which has since the arrival of Magellan in the 1500's suffered from waves of colonization.


For more demonstration photos

Photo 1 / Photo 2 / Photo 3 / Photo 4 / Photo 5 / Photo 6 / Photo 7 / Photo 8

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