Surprise! Bush saves part of planet
CONFOUNDING environmentalists who hate his guts and irritating political critics who think he's the personification of absolute evil, President George Bush recently declared nearly the entire Pacific Ocean a protected national monument.
The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands National Monument actually encompasses a mere 1,400-mile long and 100-mile wide section north of my house in Kaneohe, a section known as "Way Up Over There" to Hawaii fishermen and "Man, Are We Lost!" to Alaskan pleasure boaters and certain species of navigationally impaired terns.
Fake cable news anchor Jon Stewart gushed that the new national monument "contains sea life that has inspired some of our most breathtaking screen savers."
Whatever you call it, the massive new monument really ticks off radical conservationists, environmentalists, Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, the Audubon Society, Save the Dolphins, Save the Whales, Save the Krill, Save the Little Invisible Creatures That Krill Eat and Vegetarian Anarchists Without Borders who were hoping that Bush would finish his presidency without doing one decent thing for the planet.
"This really sucks," said one anonymous anti-Bush activist. "Sure, he's set aside 135,000 square miles of the Pacific Ocean -- an area larger than all of America's national parks combined -- as a protected national monument, but he's still personally responsible for global warming, destruction of the ozone layer and preference of paper bags over plastic in most U.S. supermarkets."
THE DYNAMIC move by Bush clearly surprised some militant environmentalists. One of them, Crystal Io Earthwatch was busy chaining herself to a caribou in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Reserve to protest oil drilling there when she heard that Bush had created the largest nature preserve in the history of the planet. She angrily told a reporter from the Anwar Beacon Shopper, "What the?"
For his part, Bush seemed just as surprised at his historic move as everyone else. "You mean I can do that?" he reportedly asked his crack team of environmental advisers, two fellas on loan from Haliburton's lawns and grounds department. "Just put half the Pacific Ocean off limits to loggers and coal miners and stuff?"
"Mr. President, with a wave of your magic law-making pen, you can create a marine nature monument 100 times larger than Yosemite!" an aide gushed.
"Yosemite?" Bush said. "Why, next to Yugoslavdenia, that's one of the biggest countries in Italy!"
(Note to conservative readers: Hey, we gotta be fair to all sides here.)
Under the new designation, commercial fishing will be phased out in the new monument area in the next five years. Fishermen currently take about 400,000 pounds of fish a year from the area. After five years, commercial fishing will be entirely banned. Monument rules will then allow roughly 400,000 pounds of fish to be taken a year for "research purposes." Those fish can be sold to restaurants and wholesalers after they have been adequately researched.
Many activities harmful to the environment will also be banned in the protected zone. However, certain "educational" and "cultural" activities will be allowed, including studying reefs and marine life, scuba, surfing, wake boarding, parasailing, skiing, windsurfing, cultural high-speed boat racing and educational sun-tanning. Special emergency health facilities will be allowed to dispense medicinal alcohol to researchers, recreational students and cultural coordinators, but the facilities will be limited to 20 stories high and offer limited concierge services.
The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands monument is expected to help more than 7,000 species of marine life -- many of them quite ugly, mean and ill-tasting -- to thrive, so we're lucky there.
Presidents have designated more than 100 national monuments protecting millions and millions of acres until the end of time, or until Congress abolishes the monument, which it has been known to do with quite surprising regularity. But that won't happen here. Really.
, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists' 2004 First Place Award winner for humor writing, appears Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org