.@SecretaryRoss: Protect the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument #MonumentsForAll
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On April 28, 2017, President Donald J. Trump signed Executive Order 13795: Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy. The executive order directs the U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross to conduct a review of 11 marine national monuments and national marine sanctuaries declared in the last 20 years, including the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument.
The people of the Mariana Islands support conservation. Article I, Section 9 of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Constitution reads “Each person has the right to a clean and healthful public environment in all areas, including the land, air, and water.” One critical tool to achieve these guaranteed rights is the protection of some places as uninhabited areas with no extraction whatsoever. Specifically, the islands of Uracus, Maug, and Asuncion, the islands that are surrounded by our marine monument, are designated in our Constitution as, “uninhabited places and used only for the preservation and protection of natural resources.”
A critical cultural value that the indigenous Chamorro and Carolinian people of the Northern Mariana Islands share with other American citizens living in the mainland United States is our deep connection to protected areas. The National Parks have been called America’s best idea, and the parks in our islands are critical threads woven into the fabric of the American story. For example, the American Memorial National Park on Saipan honors the sacrifices of American soldiers during World War II and reminds us of the cost of freedom. And the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument protects the culture of the Chamorro people and the unique natural resources of the Mariana Trench and Northern Islands. Protecting and honoring these places is our duty as American citizens, as indigenous people, and as islanders.
We call on President Trump to respect our culture and our people. The public process to build community support to create the monument was long and arduous. In 2008, the year before the monument was declared, our community held over 100 public meetings on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota, collected more than 6,000 signatures on a petition, and wrote hundreds of letters to the editor. The monument was discussed on radio, television, and in the pages of the local newspapers on a daily basis for over one year. All sides of the monument were discussed in our community until finally the Bush Administration and administration of former Governor Benigno Fitial came to agreement after months of negotiations.
The threats of overfishing and climate change are real and we urge President Trump to help us make the ocean great again. The Mariana Trench Marine National Monument should remain protected, and the United States government must meet its commitments to provide funding and expertise to help our people continue to build our own capacity to protect our natural heritage.
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