Earlier this week, the public comment period expired on the Interior Department’s review of more than two dozen National Monuments. Most are in the west, and most of the 1.4 million comments received focused on Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. As the deadline expired, both the Governor and the Senate of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands criticized the Marianas Trench National Monument. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.
In a letter to the Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, CNMI governor Ralph Torres said that the federal government has failed to live up to its promises. Before President George W. Bush established the Marianas Trench National Monument in 2009, Washington agreed to develop a co-management plan, increase patrols to discourage illegal fishing and to build a visitors center in the CNMI to encourage tourism.
None of that’s happened, and the letter asks that the Interior secretary note “concerns about lost economic opportunities and restrictions on historical and traditional fishing practices.”
The Senate went even further. A resolution passed by a vote of eight to one called for the Monument designation to be withdrawn. Fishing and mineral extraction rights would be restored to local control and it added that national marine sanctuaries are neither needed nor wanted in the Northern Marianas.
Angelo Villagomez of the Pew Charitable Trusts told the Marianas Variety that the Senate resolution misstates the issue. “The fishing rights of the people of the Marianas were not taken away,” he said.
“What was banned was industrial fishing…what this resolution will do,” he added, “is allow industrial fishing to come to our waters and our local fishermen will be competing with industrial fishermen.”
Villagomez acknowledged that he too, is frustrated by the pace of the monument’s development.