We haven't been hearing enough lately about what's happening with the Monument. And this was not really good news. I suggested reporting on it to those in charge.
Remember who's in charge of the MTMNM? It's U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. And we've not been hearing anything about them lately.
So here's a tiny bit of news that I didn't see reported in our local newspapers (well, yes, it did make the Saipan Tribune, but I was gone from Saipan and didn't catch this...) President Obama has named a new director for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, subject to Senate confirmation. Sam D. Hamilton.
Ken Salazar, Interior Secretary, approves of the appointment. Mr. Hamilton also gets a thumbs up from two diametrically opposed groups: the National Wildlife Refuge Association (a conservation group) and "Ducks Unlimited" (a hunting group).
He's praised for his ability to balance competing interests--wildlife on the one hand and people on the other.
His record is not without problems. He has the weakest known record on enforcement of the Endangered Species Act, among all comparable officials, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. No wonder the hunters, anglers, and trappers like him!
Even more worrisome, in a 2005 survey of 1400 F&WS biologists, results from those working under Mr. Hamilton included the following:
"Nearly half (49%) of FWS respondents cited cases where "commercial interests have inappropriately induced the reversal or withdrawal of scientific conclusions or decisions through political intervention."
If this is not bad enough, it appears Mr. Hamilton also lacks experience with deep ocean environments. He helped with a (now defunct) congressional committee on merchant marines and fisheries. He's got some experience with fisheries and even with the Florida Everglades restoration. But even with this, his lack of ardor in protecting marine life, and concommitant lack of understanding of marine environments, seems evident.
For example, there was some criticism of the USFWS apparent failure to include relevant information about marine mammals--manatees--in an assessment approving of a new marina along the Orange River in Florida. And tourists were harrassing the manatees, which led to another complaint about USFWS's lack of enforcement of protections.
Perhaps this is the balance of interests he's known for?
Whether you agree with his philosophy on "balancing" competing "needs", there's no doubt Mr. Hamilton has a lot of experience, with many years at USF&WS. Yet none of his varied experience seems to be directly related to what will be at the heart of managing the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument--deep ocean ecology.
Which gets us back to that nitty gritty question: why USF&WS and not NOAA marine sanctuaries? aargh.