With just days left in his final term, President George Bush is making an effort to Greenify his legacy: he’s designating three remote Pacific Ocean regions as national monuments, thereby establishing the largest marine preserve ever created.
The new Mariana Trench, Pacific Remote Islands and Rose Atoll Marine National Monuments encompass 195,280 square miles of high seas barred from fishing, mining and other uses.
The Mariana Trench is famous as the world’s deepest canyon at 36,000 feet and the surrounding area will be the largest of the three protected regions at 95,222 square miles. It’s a natural wonder that most of us will never see, but home to billions upon billions of living organisms. A chain of 21 underwater volcanoes and vents ring this deepest of all ocean floors.
Endangered birds, sharks, and other marine wildlife live within all of these regions. The seven-island Pacific Remote Islands monument covers 86,607 square miles while he Rose Atoll is much smaller at 13,451 square miles. The smaller monument includes the world’s smallest coral atoll which is just 15 acres. “These locations are truly among the last pristine areas in the marine environment on Earth,” says James Connaughton, head of the President’s Council on Environmental Quality.
The protected area eclipses the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument at 139,797 square miles, designated by President Bush in 2006, and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Reserve at 133,000 square miles.
“Taken together, this president has protected far more of the threatened and vital places in the sea than any other,” says Joshua Reichert of the Pew Environmental Group, which advocates for conservation of ocean areas. But not everyone favors the plan.
We feel the monument is not based on science and is a feel-good attempt by the administration to leave some sort of legacy on the environment,” says Wayne Heikkila of the Western Fishboat Owners Association, in Redding, CA.
While no one is suggesting that this means the Republican President will go down in history as a “Leader for the Environment,” it seems clear that if more world leaders would attempt to “feel-good” the same way, we’d have more Greenification at an international level, more inspiration to act for the environment by business and individuals, and generally, a world that more of us would feel good about.