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Monday, April 21, 2014

Rota Nat’l Park bill re-introduced

Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) has re-introduced a bill authorizing study of areas of Rota for designation as a National Park. The Rota Cultural and Natural Resources Study Act has already passed the U.S. House of Representatives twice, once in the 111th and once in the 112th Congresses.

“Rota has archaeological, historical, and natural resources that are of national significance,” Sablan said. “That was the finding of the National Parks Service reconnaissance team in 2005. And many of these resources are not found anywhere in the National Parks system. That means Rota deserves a more detailed ‘feasibility and suitability’ study, which my bill authorizes. If the Parks Service finds that there are places on Rota that fit those criteria, then we could see a Rota National Park in the future.”

Despite strong support in the House, the Rota Park study bill has not passed the Senate.

But both the new chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources, Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden, and his Republican counterpart on the Committee, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, have expressed determination to do better in this Congress. One plan is to move several small packages of bills, instead of trying to bundle lots of legislation in one large measure at the end of this Congress.

In his introductory statement on the bill, Sablan said that one reason people on Rota support further study of the possibility of a national park is the potential economic benefit. “The economy of Rota, which could be developed around themes of eco-tourism, needs a high value destination that park designation would provide,” Sablan explained. “The unique features of Rota could draw visitors from far and wide.”

One such feature is ancient Chamorro sites that are particularly well-preserved on the island. “Remnants of their ancient settlements are found at several locations and include the iconic latte stone houses. These consist of two parallel rows of limestone columns with each column supporting a hemispherical capstone upon which a wooden framed house was placed,” Sablan said.

“A quarry for these columns and capstones is also among the archaeologically important sites that could eventually be part of a Rota National Park.”

Another resource of national and international significance on Rota is the endangered Mariana crow, the Aga, and the native limestone forests that provide habitat for the bird. “This rare species is protected under both local and federal laws,” Sablan said. “And its future could be further assured if areas of its already limited range were incorporated into a park.” (PR)

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