Yesterday, President Obama announced plans to create the world’s largest marine reserve known as the Remote Islands Marine National Monument; this was an island and sea area, protected originally by George Bush, which was already close to 87,000 square miles of protection. When Obama’s Monument is designated, it will expand to a stunning 782,000 square miles in size.
To put that in perspective, Yellowstone National Park, which I always considered large (but not large enough) in scale, is 3,468 square miles. So when we speak of wildness, when we utter the word wilderness, we are talking now about something quite special.
In our modern world, when people look to go into the wilderness. The place of wildness often selected is Alaska. Now imagine if you will- swimming, scuba diving, birding or walking the beach, in the midst of a Monument that alone is more than 100,000 thousand square miles larger than the entire state of Alaska!
Here amidst the vastness of the Pacific Ocean, far away from cities and lights, one could spend a night perched on a slim line of sand, watching the heavens unfold, as the solar system refracts across miles of pristine ocean. Imagine the quiet as the sea brushes the shoreline where the differing spaces between the island and hidden waters stands at a mere seven feet. This landscape includes ranges of submerged mountains, dozens of marine mammals, including five types of endangered sea turtles.
Creating this Monument will end any threat of oil and gas development, mining and tuna fishing. In these waters illegal fishing has taken its toll and means of stopping it will be part of any designation.
Republicans, like House Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings, are already pulling their hair out with rage. Too bad, this do nothing group of individuals who are simply pawns for oil and gas and other extractive industries are becoming relics of the past, the promise of the future, obscured by their greed.
So first I think a thank-you to this President, one I have criticized in the past is in order. This is more than a simple gesture to the environmental community. This is a gift to the world!
All of the bitter fighting that I, and so many others have been involved in to protect small parcels of land, and even our grand new Monument the Organ Mountains -Desert Peaks, are dwarfed by this announcement.
In the months ahead there will be a public chattering excitement period regarding this Monument. You can be assured, Republicans and others will scream about imperialism and this President. This is a gutsy move, one that speaks volumes about the fate of our planet. The President is not finished; he is looking for more oceans to protect. We are working on the North Carolina coast and hoping that he will see the wisdom of shutting down the aspirations of Big Oil and protect a sea rich in biodiversity.
I have hiked so many miles into the very heart of wilderness, but never was I more than 25 miles from a road. I want to taste true wilderness, and it comes from spending time in the heart of 782,000 square miles of perfection. As it’s been said before, “I may never get there, but I feel better knowing it exists.” This is the magic that is soon to be a Monument, wild and massive; it pushes the boundaries of imagination, while offering hope for a planet on the brink.
“I have come back again to where I belong; not an enchanted place, but the walls are strong.” Dorothy H. Rath
Bold Visions Conservation