Dear people of the Marianas: I have promised to keep you informed about the Marianas Trench Marine Monument and here is the latest concerning President Trump’s monuments review.
Back in April, President Trump ordered Interior Secretary Zinke to review 27 large monuments declared by American presidents the last 20 years, including the Mariana Trench Monument. During the review, more than 2 million comments were received from across the country. Of that number, 99.9 percent were in support of maintaining protections. The final recommendations of that report were just made public.
The Secretary has ignored the vast majority of indigenous people, businesses, and conservationists that support protections and recommended shrinking four monuments and amending 10, including two monuments that were shrunk in Utah on Monday. This is a bit scary as it sets a precedent for how the United States manages its public lands and waters. An attack on one monument is an attack on all monuments. Native American groups are particularly upset and already five lawsuits have been filed against this decision. If these decisions are allowed to stand, future presidents will be able to shrink and grow monuments and the future of conservation could be very chaotic.
However, none of this will affect us in the Marianas immediately, because Secretary Zinke has not recommended any changes to the Mariana Trench Monument. This is because of the incredible amount of public outreach that was undertaken ahead of the declaration in 2009 and because of the high level of support for ocean and cultural protections we maintain on our islands.
This is not to say that there has not been frustration with the monument. The management plan was due in 2011 and is nearly seven years overdue. And we continue to believe that NOAA Sanctuary programs would best serve the people of the Marianas, particularly with their educational focus and the visitors center.
Now that the review is over, this is an excellent opportunity for us to hold the federal agencies accountable to seeing the management plan published for public review and comment. We should also keep pressing for approval of the sanctuary process.
Ignacio V. “Ike” Cabrera
I Agag, Saipan