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Bush to designate Hawaiian reserve

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WASHINGTON - President Bush plans today to designate an island chain spanning nearly 1,400 miles of the Pacific northwest of Hawaii as a national monument, creating the largest protected marine reserve in the world, according to sources familiar with the plan.

Establishing the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands as a strictly protected marine reserve, which Bush is slated to announce this afternoon, could prove to be the administration's most enduring environmental legacy. The roughly 100-mile-wide area encompasses a string of uninhabited islands that support more than 7,000 marine species, at least a fourth of which are found nowhere else.

Encompassing nearly 140,000 square miles, an area nearly the size of Montana and larger than all the national parks combined, the proposed reserve would just surpass Australia's Great Barrier Reef Marine Park as the largest marine protected area in the world. However, it would also be one of the least accessible.

"The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands represent an incredible opportunity to preserve nature much as it was, or has been, for millions of years, because the hand of man has not wreaked the same kind of havoc as we have elsewhere," said Rep. Ed Case, D-Hawaii, who has lobbied for the designation since he was elected in 2002.

The plan had been resisted by local Hawaiian fishing interests that feared losing access to traditional fishing grounds.

Administration officials declined to comment on the record, but one senior official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid upstaging the president's announcement, said the plan would end fishing in the area within five years.

It would allow Hawaiians to have access to the area for other traditional activities and would include the Midway World War II memorial, a facility that is open for research, education and ecotourism. Visitors wishing to snorkel, dive or take photographs in the area would have to obtain a permit, and no one could take fish, wildlife, corals or minerals from the region.

By declaring the islands a national monument, Bush circumvents a year-long approval process require to designate the area as a marine sanctuary and is affording the area the highest regulatory protection possible under law.

"Declaring the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands a national monument will mean immediate protection," the senior official said Wednesday night.

In contrast to the controversies over administration stands on a number of other environmental issues, advocacy groups, activists and Democrats hailed Bush's work on this matter. Case, the Hawaii congressman, said the president "deserves credit" for undertaking "the most revolutionary act by any president, any administration, in terms of marine resources."

Source

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A great victory for nature and the animals. :)

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my god! can it be? has bush finally pulled his head out of his @$$?!

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He's just trying to get some Republicans re-elected, but I'll take it. It sounds like a wonderful place.

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I think your right, googlybear, the elections are coming and the republicans are in deep @#$%.

But at least something good came out of it.

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