Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Sour Grapes for Wednesday, May 7th., 2008

My friend, with whom I occasionally agree, Angelo Villagomez is the spokesman for the PEW groups attempt to get Dubya to sign on to a US national park or monument encompassing our 3 northernmost islands and about a third of our national waters. The proposed monument is huge at about 115,000 square miles or roughly the size of the whole state of Arizona.

So far, I neither support it nor do I oppose it. Why? Because so far there is no proposal to look at. There are no concrete points to even talk about. We have only a moderately slick PowerPoint sales presentation with none of the specific blanks filled in. Who will administer this monument? Who will enforce the regulations? Who controls access? Who will draft the regulations? Will the US government, so reluctant to provide Coast Guard security to the northern islands now, come through and do so because there is a monument? Will jobs formed benefit the local population? Will anyone be able to visit this park after the ‘transition period’ other than a handful of government scientists? Will tourism jump start itself as suggested or fall flat as it did years ago? Where will the mentioned but not promised ‘visitor center’ be sited …Saipan, Maug, Pagan? Will tourists even be allowed to go up there? Would we lose access to all natural resources there forever? Will we lose the chance of gaining control over the whole 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone for ourselves through continued litigation? How is PEW involved before and, if instituted, after the monument is formed? There are a lot more unanswered questions right now.

More than a year has passed since this was initially suggested and PEW has made several trips here (3, I believe) but still there is no concrete proposal to look at. General mistrust of government programs (having seen most of them end in endless money wasting snafu’s) makes me skeptical about the prospects, but the lure of a possible major benefit makes me stay open minded and non committed until we hear real details. I am hoping that will be soon.

Prudence tells us we should have as much information as possible before making up our minds, on this or any other question. We should leave the door wide open to this proposal, when and if they come up with a formal proposal. That does not mean we should place undue emphasis on the incoming ‘economic study’ paid for by the very people trying to sell the park idea to us. Let’s gather our own facts. Lets look hard at all the real data pro and con and at the actual proposal when drafted; if the project is in our best interest, then sign on as wholehearted supporters. If not, dump it.

Be wary and remember that every good salesman tries to create a ‘sense of urgency’. Do not be fooled into thinking this is the ‘last opportunity’ or that ‘time is running out’. Balderdash…the next US prez is as likely (or maybe more so) to want to fatten his enviro-wallet resume’ with an ‘Ocean Park’ of monumental (sorry ) proportions. Bush is not the only person who can make this happen. We need some time to see what it really entails and to decide how best to proceed or if we should proceed with it at all. Let’s take our time looking and not be rushed along.

It is as ridiculous to stop the dialog now before we learn as much as we can, as it is to mindlessly jump on board as a supporter when we have no real information to go on yet. Neither position makes sense…neither furthers our cause. Is see hell-bent supporters that have signed on to the idea without a shred of hard data or real written promises to go on. I also see adamant opposition from some folks without waiting to find out if the myriad details can in fact be worked out to the benefit of the CNMI. The pro-siders seem hopeful that the US government can be trusted to wield the whip gracefully and in our interest not theirs. The opposition groups raise substantial and important questions. But no one really knows what is actually being offered, or what is to be lost. There are no specific terms and conditions to talk about yet, so let’s wait and see.

On the negative side We don’t need a national park to start tourism to the Northern Islands. We don’t have to let the Federal government get their hooks into us via an intractable regulatory system. We don’t need them to set up a visitor center or to restrict access. We can do all those things as a STATE park and still get some federal funding. The islands themselves are already protected by our CNMI Laws and Constitution. On the positive side, if this can be made to work without the CNMI losing complete control of a third of its sea assets we need to try to work out the details when they are made public because we stand to gain access to positive international attention, some money from the feds (watch for strings) and the possibility of creating meaningful jobs.

The idea that this is somehow a good move even if it is bad for the CNMI is ludicrous. The extremist mentality that we somehow benefit our children by setting aside huge tracts of the planet that no one but chosen government workers can enter (usually the ones who touted the area’s set aside in the first place) is just silly. Our children and their children are best served by making sure that every facet of our scarce resources are used and maximized to the benefit of the NMI as a whole. Specifically we must be very wary of releasing ever more control of those resources and of our very lives to the hulking bureaucracy of the United States. There may be a way this can work, but we should enter those negotiations carefully and make it abundantly clear that we must have a final say in the drafting process. We must not let them slam dunk us with a park by executive writ and then be stuck trying to make the best out of a bad deal. We must negotiate first, then and only then allow them create their park from our lands and waters. To do it the other way around is to invite disaster.

Let’s hope it works out. Angelo is a good man and should provide us with some answers soon.
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Quote of the Week:
Truth is tough. It will not break, like a bubble, at a touch; nay, you may kick it about all day like a football, and it will be round and full at evening. Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809 – 1894)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

excellent post Bruce