President Barack Obama Secures His Environmental Legacy
President Barack Obama has created the world's largest protected marine area on the planet. On Friday, the POTUS expanded a national marine monument northwest of the main Hawaiian Islands as he tries to secure his environmental legacy a few months before his term ends.
The New York Times reported that Mr. Obama will go to Midway Atoll, a remote strip of land within the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. This is to observe the designation and highlight the importance of protecting untouched lands and waters as the dangers of climate change continue to affect mankind.
The monument was first established by former US President, George W. Bush a decade ago. However, it was President Obama's action on Friday that highlighted how he placed the issues of conservation and climate change as those in the top priorities during his second term. The president's move to expand the size of the land, that has been supported by conservationists, scientists, and native Hawaiians, is his first move at using his executive authority under the 1906 Antiquities Act to protect more than 548 million acres of federal land and water, more than twice the number set-aside by those before him.
According to The Washington Post, Sarah Chasis, director of the oceans program at the Natural Resources Defense Council explained: "This act, to build resilience in our oceans, and sustain the diversity and productivity of sea life, could usher in a new century of conservation for our most special, and fragile, ocean areas."
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), who helped broke a compromise with groups including Native Hawaiians and day-boat fishermen, also said: "The oceans are the untold story when it comes to climate change, and we have to feel a sense of urgency when it comes to protecting the ocean that sustains.us."
President Obama's move will permanently protect coral reefs and underwater habitats, which are home to over 7,000 species like the rare whales and sea turtles included in the Endangered Species Act. Meanwhile, commercial fishing and drilling are strictly not allowed and the designation also has suggestions for navigation, along with voluntary restrictions on travel through specific areas and a requirement that ships notify the U.S. Coast Guard when they enter, as well as exit the area, USA Today reported.
UNESCO named the area as a world heritage site in 2010. In addition to its environmental, geologic and scientific value, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization pointed out the "deep cosmological and traditional significance for living Native Hawaiian culture."