June 16, 2006
In This Issue
President Bush will create the world’s largest protected marine area, designating as a national monument a 1,200-mile-long chain of small Hawaiian islands and surrounding waters and reefs that are home to a spectacular array of sea life, senior administration officials said.
In his second use of the 100-year old National Antiquities Act, which empowers the president to protect important cultural or geological resources instantly, Mr. Bush will enact a suite of strict rules for the area, including a five-year phasing out of commercial and sport fishing, officials said. It will ban other extractive industries and limit most visitors to the islands to scientists and researchers, according to administration officials.
The chain of largely uninhabited atolls, seamounts, reefs and shoals, which sweeps northwest from the big islands of Hawaii, is called the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and is home to some 7,000 species of marine life, including endangered green sea turtles and Hawaiian monk seals and millions of breeding seabirds.
Representatives of groups seeking to sustain Pacific fishing activity expressed concern as news of the new designation spread.
Kitty M. Simonds, Executive Director of the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council, one of eight regional advisory bodies to federal fisheries agencies, said the group planned to fight a complete closing of fishing in the area.
“We supported the sanctuary concept but wanted the continuation of our healthy bottom fisheries up there,” Ms. Simonds said.
The Western Governors’ Association unanimously passed a resolution calling on states and cities to reduce human-produced greenhouse gas emissions. However, the governors did not establish any binding targets.
The resolution formally acknowledged that greenhouse gases are on the rise and that states need to take action to reduce global warming while still meeting growing energy demands.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) urged a stronger stance on the issue before the association voted on the resolution. “We’ve made progress in everyone agreeing it’s a serious problem. But unless we set specific goals and targets with specific ways to measure our performance, a resolution won’t mean very much,” he said. “My friends, it’s long past the time when it’s OK to just talk about these problems.”
The resolution states that 11 national academies of science from major nations agree that climate change is occurring and is “influenced by human activity.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service agreed to shield loggers and forest landowners from parts of the Endangered Species Act for 50 years if they follow the state of Washington’s new rules protecting salmon. The sweeping deal is one of the biggest programs of its kind in the nation.
The “Forests and Fish” Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) covers 9.3 million acres of mostly private forests, encompassing just over 20 percent of the state, making it second only to the red-cockaded woodpecker HCP on private timberlands in Georgia.
The Forests and Fish plan attempts to provide protections for salmon mainly by establishing stream buffers and requiring road maintenance. Under the plan, many private landowners will have to leave 100-foot wide forested buffers along streams bearing fish and 50-foot buffers along ones that do not. Additionally, timberland owners will have to reduce the amount of sediment from roads flowing into salmon streams, install fish culverts underneath roads to provide access to historic habitat and, in some cases, abandon unneeded roads so habitat can return to a more natural state.
But some say the plan falls short by giving landowners who own less than 20 acres exemptions from stream buffers.
“As much as 35 percent of the salmon-bearing streams subject to harvest in some watersheds could be affected by the exemption,” said Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission Chairman Billy Frank Jr. “The tribes believe that the small landowner exemption will result in an unacceptable loss of fish.”
Two reviews of the plan, one by Washington and one by two science societies, faulted it for not taking all environmental impacts into consideration. A group of 28 scientists wrote to then-Gov. Gary Locke (D) saying that the plan had a “low probability of achieving its goals” of saving salmon.
The new head of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), Achim Steiner, plans to use the power of economics to help the environment.
“After 30 years of [raising] public awareness [about the environment] we have the legislation and the facts but we are not touching the core of the economic transactions in our societies,” said Steiner.
A German national who also holds Brazilian citizenship, Steiner said that economic and environmental change are becoming more integrated every day and that combining the private interests of corporations and governments with the environmental concern of the public can lead to speedy reform.
He cited examples of public-private partnerships, such as the company Unilever’s work with the World Wildlife Fund to create the Marine Stewardship Council, which promotes sustainable fishing.
His experiences in “the South”, as many non-governmental organizations term the poorer countries of the world, gave him a first-hand view of the currently inequitable distribution of power, finance and environmental standards.
“We need to find a consensus between North and South,” he observed.
“If you look back to [the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit in] 1992, we had what was almost a social contract on how to act together. But in the last few years we have lost some of the belief in that approach, and now on issues like climate change and fisheries we are not moving forwards as we should be.”
He believes developing countries feel let down by failures in the industrialized “North” since Rio.
“Many countries in the South feel they have made major contributions to global environmental goods,” he said, “and the help they were promised in 1992 has not been forthcoming – for example, overseas development aid has hardly increased over the period.”
Sources: BBC News; Energy and Environment Daily; Greenwire; New York Times; Washington Post