Today, President Bush will designate vast stretches of American-controlled Pacific Ocean including islands, reefs surface waters and sea floor as marine national monuments that will serve to limit fishing, mining, oil exploration and other kinds of commercial activities in the designated areas. Areas of interest include parts of the Mariana Trench (shown above) and a string of reefs near the Equator and American Samoa.
The islands, atolls, reefs and underwater mountain ranges offer unique habitat to hundreds of rare species of birds and fish. Among them are tropicbirds, boobies, frigate birds, terns, noddies, petrels, shearwaters and albatrosses, according to environmental groups who pushed for the protection. It is also the habitat of the rare Micronesian megapode, a bird that incubates its eggs using subterranean volcanic heat.
The declaration came after two years of study and relatively modest opposition from commercial and recreational fishing groups and some officials in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, who feared it would throttle future economic development.
The area of the protected zones will total 195,280 square miles. Early in 2006, Bush also declared a 139,000 square mile expanse of ocean northwest of the Hawaiian Islands known as the Paphanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. Bush’s actions today will mean he has done more to protect areas of the world’s oceans than any other person in history.
Dana Perino, the White House press secretary, said President Bush’s action would preserve huge ocean areas for future generations and would not conflict with military activities or freedom of navigation.
Whitehouse.gov has posted yesterday speech from President Bush on conservation and the environment. The first few expcerts are below:
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Please be seated. Thank you for coming, and Happy New Year. Laura and I thank all of our distinguished guests, starting with members of my Cabinet — Secretary Kempthorne, Secretary Gutierrez, Administrator Johnson. Admiral, thank you for coming today. We’re proud you’re here. Mr. Secretary, thank you for being here. Other members of the administration who have joined us. Members of the conservation community, we’re glad you’re here.
Governor, I am proud you’re here. Thank you for coming. And Josie is with you. Representatives from — by the way, Northern Mariana Islands — Governor. Just in case you don’t know him. (Laughter.) We know him — and we like him. And all the representatives from America Samoa, really appreciate you all coming. Apologize for the weather, but I don’t apologize for the policy, because we’re fixing to do some fabulous policy.
It’s interesting that we’re gathered a few steps from the office once occupied by a young Assistant Secretary of the Navy named Theodore Roosevelt. Not long after he left the position, he was back on these grounds as the 26th President of the United States. And exactly a hundred years ago, he embarked on his final weeks as the President — something I can relate to. (Laughter.) READ FULL SPEECH
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