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President Bush creates world's largest 
marine conservation area

WASHINGTON (06/21/06) -- Using his authority under the Antiquities Act, President Bush has created the world’s largest marine conservation area off the coast of the northern Hawaiian Islands in order to permanently protect the area’s pristine coral reefs and unique marine species. 

The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument encompasses nearly 140,000 square miles of U.S. waters, including 4,500 square miles of relatively undisturbed coral reef habitat that is home to more than 7,000 species. The monument will be managed by the Department of the Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in close coordination with the State of Hawaii. 

"Along with the two national wildlife refuges already in the area, this national monument provides permanent protection and conservation for the extraordinary natural resources and wildlife of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands," said Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne. "Relatively untouched by human activities, these isolated waters and coral reefs provide vital habitat for the endangered Hawaiian monk seal, the threatened Hawaiian green sea turtle and other rare marine species." 

The national monument is located in waters off the Hawaiian Islands Reservation established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1909, the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge and Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, site of the key World War II sea battle and the Battle of Midway National Memorial.

Permits will be required for activities related to research, education, conservation and management, native Hawaiian practices, and non-extractive special ocean uses. The commercial and recreational harvest of precious coral, crustaceans and coral reef species will be prohibited in monument waters and commercial fishing in monument waters will be phased out over a five-year period. Oil, gas and mineral exploration and extraction will not be allowed anywhere in the monument. 

The President’s action means immediate protection, immediate implementation of the management measures included in the plan that was developed during the National Marine Sanctuary designation process, and immediate start of the "seamless" federal/state management process that will include ongoing consultation and involvement with the public. 

Under the Antiquities Act of 1906, which is celebrating its 100th year of enactment, the President of the United States is authorized to declare by public proclamation, historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States to be national monuments.

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