Our Environmentally-Friendly US President

God luv ‘im, he cares after all! Today, George W Bush will (attempt to) leave his mark on environmental history by signing declarations under the 1906 Antiquities Act, that will create three large marine sanctuaries where fishing will be banned and divers require a permit.[1]

These sanctuaries take in Pacific waters at the northern end of the Northern Mariana Islands, including the Mariana Trench, the Rose Atoll in American Samoa — the world’s smallest coral atoll and one of the most remote – and in the central Pacific, coral reefs, pinnacles, sea mounts, islands and surrounding waters of Johnston Atoll, Howland, Baker and Jarvis Islands, Kingman Reef, Palmyra Atoll and Wake Island. These areas harbor some of the most pristine coral reefs in the world.

According to a report in the SF Chronicle, in November, the idea has induced conflict between Laura Bush and Dick Cheney, the former arguing it “would attract tourism and burnish the president’s record for history.” The vice president is concerned about the effects on local economies, in particular that of the Mariana Islands, heavily reliant on fishing – well, not anymore, apparently.[2]

It’s interesting to note, the area concerned is almost the size of California, but none of it will intrude on the activities of the US fishing fleet. Surprise, surprise.

This is not the first marine sanctuary George Bush has created. Two years ago, our environmental president named the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and surrounding ocean as a national monument. It’s to be hoped he arranges to take better care of these latest sanctuaries, as, according to BuzzFlash.Com:

In 2006, President Bush established 140,000 square miles of Hawaiian island and surrounding ocean as a national monument, citing the need to protect the extensive reef and the 7,000 rare species living there. Two years later, officials say the clean-up efforts were better before Bush’s designation.

The provisions of the proclamation prohibit commercial fishing, place strict restrictions on ship passage and use of natural resources, and pledge to work with federal agencies to maintain and protect the sanctuary…….

The archipelago, now known as Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, is plagued by huge amounts of debris that wash up on the islands’ shores. In 2005, before its designation as a national monument, the area received a $2.1 million cleanup budget. Through 2008, the Bush administration requested only $400,000 per year and though Congress has added to that, dozens of tons of debris remain.

Marine conservation experts have expressed disappointment with the effort. Elliott Norse, president of the Marine Conservation Biology Institute, said:

“It is wonderful that our nation has made a commitment, and this administration deserves a lot of credit for designating the world’s largest marine reserve, but there is a responsibility that goes along with that… Unfortunately in recent years the U.S. has not made picking up trash in our most special places in the ocean a priority.”[3]

It would seem George Bush’s greatest achievement as president (apart from catching a mythical 7lb perch) was learning to use his fountain pen. After all, it doesn’t take much effort to sign a piece of paper. What happens after, Bush seems happy to leave to someone else.

Oh, and quite why, “burnishing the president’s record for history,” should be a viable reason for taking such drastic measures, only Laura Bush can answer.

Though, God knows, he’s going to need it.

[1] “Bush to Create Large Ocean Sanctuaries” LiveScience, January 5th 2009

[2] “Bush hits choppy water over ocean sanctuaries” SFGate, November 5th 2008

[3] “Bush lets trash collect on ocean sanctuary he promised to protect” BuzzFlash.Com, August 11th 2008

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