$8 million sought to manage Northwestern Isles
The Bush administration asked Congress yesterday to set aside $8 million in the next fiscal year for management of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands National Monument.
The funds will cover the cost of tracking boats in the area to make sure people are not fishing in the monument zone or otherwise violating conservation rules. The money also will fund efforts to clean up marine debris and research the health of the islands' ecosystem.
President Bush created the monument in June to protect the 4,500 square miles of coral reefs and more than 7,000 marine species among the Northwestern Islands. The monument is the largest single conservation area in the world and is home to endangered monk seals, nesting green sea turtles and other rare species.
The money is part of a $1.75 billion federal budget for coastal and marine conservation programs announced yesterday in Washington, D.C., by Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and other officials. Gutierrez's agency includes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, one of the island chain's key managers. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also helps.
Gutierrez said the administration knew money would be needed to manage the area when it decided to establish a monument.
"This is the largest conservation project ever. I don't believe that anyone has ever done a project that covers this area," Gutierrez said in a telephone interview. "It will help conserve that part of the world for many, many, many years, and that's what we are interested in."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also plans to use some of the funds to educate people on the importance of the monument and explain to the public what officials are doing to make sure the islands and surrounding waters stay pristine.
Keiko Bonk, executive director of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Network, said her group has been hoping the federal government would allocate significant funds to ensure the area's protection. But she added that she wants to see more details of the plan before reacting.