NPS to do ‘Special Resource Study’ on Rota, in hopes for national park
A special resource study will be conducted on Rota whether a national park site could be appropriate on the island, according to War in the Pacific National Historic Park and American Memorial Park superintendent Jim Richardson.
In an email to Saipan Tribune yesterday Richardson said that National Park Services planners will be doing the study and would receive help from park services from Guam and Saipan as well. The study will be done in fiscal year 2016 and must be completed within three years.
“The primary persons compiling the study are NPS planners who have done this at many other sites, and give consistency to the reports,” Richardson said.
The planner leading the resource study will be Martha Crusius, program chief for Park Planning and Environmental Compliance at National Park Service, who was on Rota last week along with other NPS staff, according to Richardson.
“The group had been out to Guam for another required internal planning session, and since they had come all this way, took the opportunity to also get a first look in person at the resources and met some of the leaders of Rota who we will be working with on this. Local NPS staff from Guam and Saipan including myself will also assist with this study,” Richardson said.
He also said that the studies that will be done must follow a standard system that U.S Congress is used to reviewing. The study will review natural and cultural resources to see if they are “nationally significant” and whether an area represents or includes themes, sites or resources not already adequately represented in the NPS.
“Next it must address if a park on Rota would be “suitable” and next if it would be “feasible”. For instance since the U.S. government may not own land in the CNMI, the study will have to address how our compact, constitution, laws and etc. would apply to a national park site. The study will include pulling together previous research and documentation of natural and cultural resources, and will involve significant involvement with the public and local leaders,” he said.
Richardson noted that if U.S Congress would decide to make some lands on Rota a National Park site, this designation would certainly bring in more tourists to see and experience these resources. The National Park brand is a strong statement of significance. Most of the jobs and economic gain would come from private investment in businesses that could then be more successful with more tourists.
“Funding for the study comes from the U.S. Congress who gives appropriations to the NPS that include monies to complete studies. The study will begin in fiscal year 2016. Once the study is completed (in 2 to 3 years hopefully), it is presented to Congress. Then Congress decides what to do,” Richardson said.
“Since the report will include much public and leadership input, at that point they will know what the people’s interests are. The special resources on Rota are already there, and at least in a first look, appear to be largely intact and well cared for. It does look like some of the visitor/tourist resources need an infusion of money to repair or replace for instance non-functioning restrooms,” he added.
“As part of December’s Defense Authorization Bill, the U.S. Congress directed the NPS to complete a “special resources study” on the island of Rota. Studies like these have been done for many years at the direction of Congress, and other avenues. Less than half of the areas studied, eventually have become a National Park or other designation of the National Park System,” Richardson said.
The effort was first pushed by former Rota senator Diego M. Songao serving both in the 13th and 14th CNMI Legislature. Songao, in an earlier interview, said that it was a lot of hard work and is finally being pushed through. The efforts would put Rota on the map and create employment opportunities.
Last December, Delegate Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (MP-Ind) was finally able to get the law, now Public Law 113-291, authorizing a “special resource study” of Rota enacted. In his E-newsletter this week, Sablan stated that Richardson and a team of NPS planners met with Rota Mayor Efraim Atalig and other local officials and toured the Taga Quarry and Mochong and Maya latte sites, as well as some of the natural habitats so special on Rota.