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Jan 062009

White House photo by Eric Draper

President George W. Bush smiles after delivering his remarks on U.S. Ocean Action Plan last September at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. President Bush has now protected more of the ocean than any other president.

Green Right Now reports

President George W. Bush today announced the establishment of three underwater monuments that will protect a vast area of the central Pacific Ocean that spans nine tropical coral islands and their surrounding waters.

The action was cheered by conservationists and environmental groups, including the Marine Conservation Biology Institute and Environmental Defense Fund, which each worked with the administration to establish the protections.

The Marianas Marine National Monument, Pacific Remote Island National Monument, and Rose Atoll National Monument, at approximately 195,000 square miles, represent an area larger than California.

“Today’s announcement marks an enormous step in conserving the biodiversity of our planet. These new marine monuments rank right up there with our nation’s greatest national parks,” David Yarnold, executive director of Environmental Defense Fund, said in a statement.

The action adds complexity and new shades to the portrait of President Bush, whose administration has often been at odd with environmentalists. But after creating the first U.S. marine national monument in 2006 with 139,797 square miles in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands, President Bush has now protected more of the ocean than any other president.

Marine Conservation Biology Institute and the Environmental Defense Fund worked with the Bush administration to nominate and develop scientific and public support for two of the three areas. The Pew Charitable Trusts developed the case for the areas off the Northern Mariana Islands.

Yarnold said that 200 leading scientists from EDF and other organizations identified the islands and their surrounding ocean waters as some of the few remaining, relatively pristine islands left on Earth.

“President Bush has laid the foundation for a national system of ocean reserves just as Theodore Roosevelt laid the foundation for our national park system,” said MCBI vice president for government affairs, William Chandler. “The islands will be havens for all kinds of marine life, and a bulwark against the degradation and decline of the tropical Pacific.”

“President Bush is giving the world a Texas-sized gift,” Diane Regas, associated vice-president for oceans at Environmental Defense Fund, said in a press statement. “These are places time forgot. They still look as they did hundreds and even thousands of years ago.”

More from GRN

Read the official White House briefing