Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Bush's Ocean Legacy

Thank God for ego! Did I say that? If it weren’t for George Bush’s need to create a positive legacy for his presidency, nearly 200, 000 square miles of ocean would never be designated as conservation areas.

Tuesdays formal announcement about this conservation move inspired Diane Regas, manager of the ocean program at the Environmental Defense Fund to say, "The president has given the world a Texas-sized gift.”

The politics behind this move reflect a lot about the Bush White House. Apparently Vice President Dick Cheney tried to block the move but Laura Bush took a rare step and became quite engaged in policy making. She arranged briefings for White House staff and from scientists in support of the plan in order to silence the Cheney lobby.

The marine reserves are all in the South Pacific. The areas include the Mariana Islands in the western Pacific (which includes Guam where a major US-Japanese battle occurred in WWII), a chain of remote islands in the central Pacific, and the Rose Atoll off American Samoa.

The Marianas Marine National Monument will protect the Mariana Trench - deeper than Mount Everest is tall and five times the size of the Grand Canyon - and a string of 21 active volcanoes and thermal vents. Wow!

The area is home to 300 species of stony corals and some of the most diverse fish populations in the Mariana Islands. It also harbours the Micronesian megapode, a bird which uses the heat from the volcanic vents to incubate its eggs.

One wonders if Steven Harper is interested in his legacy. He could become the Conservation Prime Minster and follow through on commitments to marine protected areas and marine planning. Perhaps we should be having tea with Laureen Harper to see if we can influence oceans policy?

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