Going, going, gone green?
On Jan. 6, in one of his final acts as president, George W. Bush established marine reserves within 50 miles of low-lying Pacific islands and reefs that are the farthest-flung U.S. territories. The new reserves, covering 195,274 square miles, will prohibit oil drilling, tourism and commercial fishing.
Even the conservative press thought Bush was playing to history when he painted a green stripe across the closing days of an administration that was seldom keen on environmental protection. The Economist, for example, pointed to some inconvenient facts about reef preservation:
In 2006, Bush surprised environmentalists by establishing the 140,000 square-mile Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument northwest of the Hawaiian Islands. Bush's recent, last-minute act of conservation echoed by outgoing President Bill Clinton's 2001 ban on roadbuilding in about 90,000 square miles of national forests. While that ban is still under litigation, the Pacific reserves are less controversial, simply because they are so remote and virtually unpopulated. The three reserves were established to protect ocean that is home to a vast range of birds, clams, corals and fish:
Marianas Trench Marine National Monumentprotects a coral reef ecosystem on some of the westernmost U.S. territory. These waters are home to more than 300 species of stony corals and the 11,000 meter-deep Marianas Trench, the deepest place on Earth. Twenty-one active submarine volcanoes support life in severe conditions that may resemble the birthplace of life on Earth.
Rose Atoll Marine National Monumentprotects a pristine coral reef ecosystem around a remote part of American Samoa that is home to many declining species, including reef sharks and giant clams. Threatened species of nesting petrels, shearwaters and terns nest on shore.
Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monumentprotects threatened, endangered or depleted species in pristine coral reefs around Kingman Reef, Palmyra Atoll, Howland, Baker, and Jarvis Islands, Johnston Atoll, and Wake Island. Residents include green and hawksbill turtles, pearl oysters, giant clams, reef sharks, coconut crabs, groupers, Napoleon wrasse, Bumphead parrotfish and dolphins. Coral skeletons at the islands record millions of years of climatic history, offering an opportunity to conduct climate research near the equator, far from immediate human disturbance.
With all this conservation activity, it only seems logical to ask:
Terry Devitt, editor; Nathan Hebert, project assistant; S.V. Medaris, designer/illustrator; David Tenenbaum, feature writer; Amy Toburen, content development executive