Kilili expects many people to participate in public meeting



Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) expects many to take part in this week’s two-day virtual public meeting by the U.S. National Park Service when it will present its preliminary findings of the Rota Special Resource Study and accept comments from participants.

“Honoring our ancient Chamorro heritage is so important to us all,” Sablan said.

Sablan noted that over 200 people took part in the initial public meetings when the park study began in 2017.

With the coming meetings, he said, the public has an opportunity to look at specific proposals and decide how the CNMI can best preserve ancient ancestral Chamorro sites for future generations.

The delegate said Rota’s limestone forests will make a unique and excellent 58th addition to the 57 existing national parks in the nation.

The meeting will be on Zoom and will be recorded.

NPS will hold the first virtual public meeting this Thursday, Sept. 17, from 9am to 11am, Chamorro Standard Time. The link is https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85655125375

The second virtual public meeting will be this Saturday, Sept. 19, from 9am to 11am, Chamorro Standard Time. The link is https://us02web.zom.us/j/86120394552

The National Park Service recently issued its preliminary findings that indicate Rota is a special place with significant cultural and natural resources, based on preliminary results of its special resource study, Chamorro archeological sites, World War II Japanese defensive sites, and limestone forests. The study finds the site suitable for inclusion in the national park system.

NPS’ special resource study of Rota was authorized by Congress in 2014, after four years of work by Sablan. In 2015, Sablan secured funding, prompting NPS to begin the study.

NPS’ preliminary analysis also indicates that these sites would be conditionally feasible for inclusion in the NPS, requiring a partnership-based approach for management because of land ownership restrictions on Rota.

Based on these preliminary findings, NPS staff developed three alternative concepts for the preservation and public enjoyment of these sites including continuation of current management; Rota National Historical Park Concept; and Rota National Monument or Preserve Concept.

The first alternative is to continue the current management by the Commonwealth and Rota municipal government agencies.

The second and third alternatives are for the CNMI and the Rota municipal governments to enter into a management agreement with NPS for a Chamorro National Historical Park (about 526 hectares), or for a Chamorro, limestone forest, and World War II sites National Historic Park (about 1,780 hectares).

Sablan said all lands would remain Commonwealth-owned, consistent with Article 12.

After the public makes its views known, NPS will send a final report to the Interior secretary, who will in turn transmit a recommendation to Congress. Only Congress can actually create a national park.

Sablan said a Rota National Park is an idea that started on Rota, when former senator Diego Songao suggested it to him, when Sablan was first elected in 2009 as a delegate.

Sablan said NPS’ findings that a Rota National Historic Park is “both suitable and feasible” is a post-COVID-19 economic opportunity for the Marianas.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com

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