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A “Blue” Legacy: Pres. Bush Protects Miles of Pacific

January 6, 2009

Portland, OR – Proponents of creating a marine reserve system off the Oregon coast are thankful that President Bush apparently agrees that at least some areas of the world's oceans are worth protecting from over-fishing and oil drilling. Using a hundred-year-old law, he is designating three new national monuments in a White House ceremony today. All are remote Pacific islands and the waters around them, including parts of the Mariana Trench and the Rose Atoll.

After being at odds with this administration on many environmental topics, conservation groups are pleased that the president is showing his "blue streak" by protecting ocean habitat, according to Josh Reichert, managing director of the Pew Environment Group.

"It's quite significant, both from a biological and an ecological perspective, as well as preserving a series of unique geological features, which are found nowhere else in the world."

Limited tourism, fishing and research will be allowed in the areas, Reichert explains, although huge portions will be strictly off-limits to commercial fishing and oil and gas extraction.

"These three areas that are being proclaimed total a little more than 195,000 square miles, which is bigger than Oregon and Washington combined."

Reichert says some groups wanted the protections to extend even farther. The new national monuments mean that overall, President Bush has protected more ocean territory than any other American president. In 2002, he also designated the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands as a national monument.

In Oregon, the state legislature will soon decide which sites along the coast will receive similar protections from the state.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR