Wednesday, January 07, 2009

President Bush Discusses Conservation & Environment

Jan 6: President Bush delivered a speech on conservation and environmental issues at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC. The President said that, "Since 2001, we have put common-sense policies in place, and I can say upon departure, our air is cleaner, our water is purer, and our lands are better protected."

He used the occasion to announce that under the Antiquities Act that Theodore Roosevelt signed in 1906, which allows the President to set aside places of historic or scientific significance to be protected as national monuments, he was issuing proclamations to designate what he called "three beautiful and biologically diverse areas of the Pacific Ocean as new marine national monuments."

The first is the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument that will protect much of the Marianas Trench -- the site of the deepest point on Earth -- and the surrounding arc of undersea volcanoes and thermal vents. The President said, "This unique geological region is more than five times longer than the Grand Canyon. It is deeper than Mount Everest is tall. It supports life in some of the harshest conditions imaginable. A fascinating array of species survive amid hydrogen-emitting volcanoes, hydrothermal vents that produce highly acidic and boiling water, and the only known location of liquid sulfur this side of Jupiter."

The second new monument announced will be the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. The monument will span seven areas to the far south and west of Hawaii. One is Wake Island -- the site of a pivotal battle in World War II, and a key habitat for nesting seabirds and migratory shorebirds. The third new monument will be the Rose Atoll Marine National Monument. Rose is a diamond-shaped island to the east of American Samoa -- the nation's southernmost territory. It includes rare species of nesting petrels, shearwaters, and terns -- which account for its native name, "Island of Seabirds."

The President said, "Taken together, these three new national monuments cover nearly 200,000 square miles, and they will now receive our nation's highest level of environmental recognition and conservation. This decision came after a lot of consultation -- consultation with local officials, consultation with prominent scientists, consultation with environmental advocates, consultation with the United States military and the fishing community. Based on these consultations, as well as sound resource management principles, the monuments will prohibit resource destruction or extraction, waste dumping, and commercial fishing. They will allow for research, free passage, and recreation -- including the possibility of recreational fishing one day. For seabirds and marine life, they will be sanctuaries to grow and thrive. For scientists, they will be places to extend the frontiers of discovery. And for the American people, they will be places that honor our duty to be good stewards of the Almighty's creation."

The President also discussed his Administration's actions on cleaning the air, water, establishing conservation areas and protecting wildlife. He noted that "more than 11,000 abandoned industrial brownfields are on their way back to productive use"; "aggressive steps to make America's energy supply cleaner and more secure"; and, "developing clean and efficient technologies like biofuels, advanced batteries and hydrogen fuel cells, solar and wind power, and clean, safe nuclear power." He said, "We built international consensus on an approach that will replace the Kyoto Protocol with a global climate agreement that calls for meaningful commitments to reduce greenhouse gases from all major economies, including India and China."

He concluded saying, "With all these steps, we have charted the way toward a more promising era in environmental stewardship. We have pioneered a new model of cooperative conservation in which government and private citizens and environmental advocates work together to achieve common goals. And while there's a lot more work to be done, we have done our part to leave behind a cleaner and healthier and better world for those who follow us on this Earth."

The designation of the three new protected areas -- Marianas Marine National Monument, Pacific Remote Island National Monument, and Rose Atoll National Monument -- was generally praised by environmental, marine and conservation groups. David Yarnold, executive director of Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) said, "Today's announcement marks an enormous step in conserving the biodiversity of our planet. These new marine monuments rank right up there with our nation’s greatest national parks. We are gratified that the president has given careful consideration to the scientific evidence and our recommendations to protect these areas." Elliott Norse, President of Marine Conservation Biology Institute said, "President Bush has now protected more ocean sites than anyone else in the history of the world. We greatly appreciate this bold, visionary action.”

While the Marine Monument designations drew praise, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released its own rendition of the "The Bush Record." NRDC said it "culled through eight years of policies and actions under the Bush administration to create a dynamic, online timeline that highlights the government’s systematic undermining of environmental protections." Karen Wayland, legislative director for NRDC said, “Eight years of environmental abuse is finally coming to its bitter end, but its impact will take years to overcome. In November, Americans sent a clear message that they’re ready for a new direction. The Obama administration will have a lot of work ahead of it to restore environmental protections that ensure safety for people, endangered species and our national treasures.”

Access the speech and links to the Bush Record, and fact sheets on the National Monuments and the Environment (click here). Access the NOAA's National Marine Sanctuaries website for more information (click here). Access a release and links to the completed management plan and associated environmental assessments for Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (click here). Access an interesting legal article on Marine Protected Areas including Marine National Monuments and National Marine Sanctuaries (click here). Access a release from EDF (click here). Access a release from NRDC and link to its timeline website and related information (click here). [*All]