Gov. Benigno R. Fitial brought to the attention of three federal agencies a four-year delay in the implementation of a co-management term of a 2009 agreement establishing a Marianas Trench Marine National Monument within CNMI waters.
The governor wrote separate Jan. 10 letters to acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank, Council on Environmental Quality chair Nancy Sutley, and outgoing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on the matter.
“This agreement concerns our vital, world renowned Marianas Trench and the initiative to establish a Marianas Trench Marine National Monument within our waters. Today, I kindly request your assistance in bringing the conceptual goals of the agreement to fruition,” Fitial said in his separate letters.
As of yesterday, it's not known whether the agencies have responded to the governor's letters.
Fitial said the 2008 agreement was between the CNMI and the United States, “negotiated in good faith through the White House Council of Environmental Quality.”
While there was some degree of initial resistance toward the issues of co-management, decision-making and veto authority, Fitial said a similar arrangement “is already in place and operating successfully for the Hawaii marine monument.”
His appointees to the intergovernmental MTMNM Advisory council have already approached their colleagues in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Department of Defense for support to implement the co-management term of the agreement.
Since there has been no progress to date, Fitial said he was urged by Susan White of USFWS and Lisa Croft of NOAA to seek support from the heads of Commerce, Interior, and CEQ, “given that this is an intergovernmental matter.”
White is USFWS's monument superintendent/refuge project leader, Pacific Reefs National Wildlife Refuge Complex, while Croft is deputy regional administrator for NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service's Pacific Islands Regional Office.
Fitial also asked for transmission of CEQ's response to the Saipan Chamber of Commerce's October 2008 letter to then CEQ chair James Connoughton.
“If a previous response is not able to be located, then I kindly request that the current CEQ leadership look into the issue of co-management and provide a response accordingly,” the governor said.
On Jan. 6, 2009, then President George Bush established the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.
The marine monument spans over 480 miles and incorporates approximately 95,216 square miles within three units in the Mariana Archipelago and contains some of the nation's most unique and pristine marine environments.