Tag Archives: National Monuments

Some Damage Will Be Permanent

As the Trump Administration’s dreary parade of discredited assertions, retrograde policies and corrupt practices marches on, I remind myself that destruction is also opportunity; once the current cabinet is gone, competent public servants can address agency shortcomings–both old and new.

I console myself by imagining a new administrator doing a thorough review of agency policies and regulations, jettisoning those that have outlived their usefulness and tightening up those that are needed. The Trumpian chaos can provide an opening to rethink, re-arrange, revisit. Sure, damage was done by the barbarians, but (assuming a really big wave in November) it can be fixed. It can even be made better!

But not all of it.

The Trump administration’s plan to shrink four land-based national monuments has provoked howls of anguish from environmental groups, Native American tribes and some businesses, such as the outdoors company Patagonia.

Accompanying changes to protected monuments in the oceans – vastly larger areas than their land-based counterparts – have received less attention, but could have major consequences for the livelihoods and ecosystems dependent upon the marine environment.

Ryan Zinke, the secretary of the interior, has recommended to Donald Trump that three sprawling marine monuments, one in the Atlantic and two in the Pacific, be either opened up to the commercial fishing industry or reduced in size, or both.

According to marine biologists, these “blue parks ” are home to, and protect, unique species. They shelter a wealth of biodiversity and special habitats.

In 2009, George W Bush created the Pacific Remote Islands national monument around seven islands and atolls in the central Pacific. The monument, subsequently expanded by Barack Obama to become what was the largest marine protected area in the world, comprises “the last refugia for fish and wildlife species rapidly vanishing from the remainder of the planet”, according to the Fish & Wildlife Service, boasting creatures such as sea turtles, dolphins, whales, sharks and giant clams.

Evidently, fishing interests have complained about these areas being made off-limits, and as we have seen with multiple issues, this is an administration exceptionally receptive to the complaints of business and industry.

“This is a spectacular place that contains animals incredibly vulnerable to drilling, fishing, noise and pollution,” said Peter Baker, director of US oceans, north-east, at the Pew Charitable Trusts.

“It shouldn’t be too much to ask to protect 2% of the US’s exclusive economic zone off the Atlantic coast for future generations. Allowing commercial fishing there is really a distortion of why you would have a national monument in the first place.”

Baker said the New England Fisheries Management Council, which Zinke indicated should determine fishing restrictions in the monument, has a “horrible track record” of overfishing and conflicts of interest.

Assuming a return to competent governance, we can repair a lot of the damage. For one thing, we can address–and hopefully redress– the shocking deterioration of our National Parks, recently the subject of a depressing series in the Guardian.

But there’s a lot we can’t repair. And the wrecking crew that is the Trump Administration is counting on that.