John Broder at The New York Times reports:
“With the designation of the world’s largest marine reserve in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands in 2006, and now these three other sites, George W. Bush has done more to protect unique areas of the world’s oceans than any other person in history,” said Joshua Reichert, managing director of the Pew Environmental Group.
Wow. Maybe after eight years I have low expectations, but that’s not something I expected to hear at any point in my life this morning. Turns out our outgoing lame duck president has decided to do something positive with his last remaining days. Today Bush is set to designate over 195, 280 square miles of “American-controlled Pacific Ocean islands, reefs, surface waters and sea floor as marine national monuments.”
Apparently the islands are remote and for the most part, uninhabited. The article reports, however, that there was some opposition to the designation by commercial and recreational fishing groups, as well as government officials from the nearby Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands who feared potentially negative commercial impacts.
The article continues,
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.
Yay! I love frigate birds. My favorite part of this story, however, is how America came to control this land in the first place. I’m a big history nerd, so you’ll have to bear with me as I geek out. You see kiddoes, in 1856 we passed the Guano Island Act, a law that allowed sea captains to just claim any islands that were rich in guano. This encouraged sailors to seek out the poopy-est islands possible and claim them in the name of America. These rock solid legal claims kept those lands under our dominance for over 150 years. Weird.
Anyway, thank you Bush, for protecting these lands as a final parting shot. This is a welcome change from your other last minute presidential actions, such as auctioning off public lands in Utah to oil and gas drilling letting his EPA administrator make up bogus rules.
UPDATE: Looks like I spoke too soon: Bush’s One Last Blow to the Environment
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