President Barack Obama will quadruple the size of federally-controlled ocean and land northwest of the state of Hawaii, banning all commercial fishing and mineral extraction from the region that’s almost the size of Alaska.
Obama is travelling to Hawaii, his home state, next week to highlight how global warming could wipe out natural landmarks, making federal control of these lands even more important, according to the White House.
The White House said, “as ocean acidification, warming, and other impacts of climate change threaten marine ecosystems, expanding the monument will improve ocean resilience, help the region’s distinct physical and biological resources adapt, and create a natural laboratory that will allow scientists to monitor and explore the impacts of climate change on these fragile ecosystems.”
Obama is expanding the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument — 582,578 square miles — four times the size it was when originally designated by President George W. Bush in 2006. The expansion comes just after Obama created a 87,500-acre national monument in Maine to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the National Park Service.
Obama used the Antiquities Act to designate 265 million acres of public land as monuments during his time in office. That’s more than any other U.S. president in history, sparking concern from lawmakers he’s abusing his authority.
“The only votes taken on this proposal, at the local and state level, have demonstrated opposition from Mainers,” Utah Republican Rep. Rob Bishop said of the new Maine monument.
“If the President cared about local voices and improving our National Park System, he would have done this through the public process and not behind closed doors,” Bishop said. “Instead, he’s hijacked a moment of celebration to advance powerful elite special interests over Maine’s economy and citizens.”
Indeed, locals fiercely opposed the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, because such designations make it harder to log, farm or do any other sort of activity on federal lands. Locals fear the monument could eventually be expanded to choke economic activity in the region.
Maine’s legislature passed legislation blocking the federal government from exercising exclusive rights over national monuments within the state.
“Despite this lack of support, the Quimby family used high-paid lobbyists in Washington, D.C., to go around the people of Maine and have President Obama use his authority to designate this area a National Monument,” Maine Republican Gov. Paul LePage said of the Maine monument.
“This once again demonstrates that rich, out-of-state liberals can force their unpopular agenda on the Maine people against their will,” he said. “The fix has been in all along.”
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