Letter to Interior Secretary on USVI Monuments

Oceanwatch at aol.com Oceanwatch at aol.com
Tue Mar 20 11:04:45 EST 2001

Coral Listers:

The following letter to Interior Secretary Gale Norton may be of general 
interest and specific to the message string on National Monuments of a month 

Cliff McCreedy
><((;>   ><((;>   ><((;>
PO Box 10427
Arlington, VA  22210
phone 703-351-7444
fax 703-351-7472
e-mail:  Oceanwatch at aol.com

Text of Letter Follows:

Friends of Virgin Islands National Park * Virgin Islands Audubon Society *
 American Oceans Campaign * Coral Reef Alliance * Defenders of Wildlife * 
Environmental Defense * Marine Conservation Biology Institute * National 
Audubon Society Living Oceans Program * Natural Resources Defense Council * 
National Parks Conservation Association * Oceanwatch * Pacific Whale 
Foundation * PADI Project AWARE Foundation * Public Employees for 
Environmental Responsibility * Sierra Club * The Cousteau Society * The 
Wilderness Society *  World Wildlife Fund

March 14, 2001
Honorable Gale A. Norton
Secretary of Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20240

Dear Secretary Norton:

We the undersigned local and national organizations are writing to request 
your support and immediate implementation of the U.S. Virgin Islands Coral 
Reef National Monuments.

The Buck Island National Monument and Virgin Islands National Park are 
national treasures worthy of full protection.  Each was created to protect 
and manage the extraordinary diversity of marine life and unique tropical 
ecosystems of the Virgin Islands.   The coral reefs, beaches, mangroves, 
seagrass beds and offshore areas provide critical habitat for marine mammals, 
birds, sea turtles, fish, invertebrates, and important local fisheries.  Many 
are threatened or endangered.

The Interior Department now has a critical opportunity to fulfill its mandate 
to protect these precious areas.  According to the Department's data, 
overfishing from fish traps in and around the islands has reached crisis 
levels.  Spawning aggregations are greatly reduced, and fish size and 
abundance are in decline. The Department can start rebuilding fish 
populations now, and avoid the tragic inaction that allowed Nassau grouper 
and queen conch to almost disappear from the Caribbean.  By implementing the 
prohibitions on extraction in these limited areas around Buck Island and St. 
John, the Department can take the first step to providing meaningful, lasting 

Nothing could be more timely or urgent than immediate implementation of these 
new National Monuments, particularly to address overfishing which has 
depleted fish populations and undermined the health of coral reef ecosystems 
around St. John and Buck Island.  The benefits of this approach in 
replenishing overexploited fish stocks, conserving biodiversity, and 
restoring habitats are clearly supported by broad scientific consensus.  Both 
the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis and the National 
Academy of Sciences' National Research Council have endorsed the increased 
use of fully protected marine reserves as a way of restoring and enhancing 
the abundance, productivity, diversity and size of marine organisms.  Of all 
the resource management tools available to the Department, these marine 
reserves would yield the greatest benefits in rebuilding fish stocks and 
protecting the overall functioning and productivity of coral reef ecosystems. 

We believe the Monument reserve plan, especially the prohibition on 
extraction, should go forward immediately.  To be effective, however, science 
also shows that marine reserves must have adequate public involvement.  As it 
moves forward with implementation, the Department should increase public 
understanding of these reserves, provide further education and outreach on 
the benefits, and encourage maximum involvement from local stakeholders in 
monitoring these reserves.  In addition, we request that the Department 
publish a rulemaking in the Federal 
Register immediately establishing these protected areas in regulation.  
Finally, we request that the Department solicit funding from Congress to 
provide additional staff and resources to monitor the 

Page 2
Honorable Gale A. Norton

effects of the reserves on biological resources, assess reserve performance, 
and enforce these new protections emanating from the Monument Proclamation 
and the upcoming Management Plan.  

Thank you for considering our views on this important matter.


 Brian Bell
Conservation Committee
Virgin Islands Audubon Society 

John Garrison
Friends of Virgin Islands National Park

William J. Chandler
Vice President for Conservation Policy
National Parks Conservation Association

Sarah Chasis
Senior Attorney
Natural Resources Defense Council

Stephen Colwell
Executive Director
The Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL)

Robert Dewey
Vice President of Government Relations
and External Affairs
Defenders of Wildlife

Russell Dunn
Director, Government Relations 
National Audubon Society 
Living Oceans Program

Phillip Dustan
Science Advisor 
The Cousteau Society

Thomas V. Grasso
U.S. Director
Marine Conservation Program
World Wildlife Fund 
Ken Lindeman
Senior Scientist 
Environmental Defense

Amy Mathews-Amos
Vice President
Marine Conservation Biology Institute 

Cliff McCreedy

Dan Meyer
General Counsel
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility

Ted Morton
Policy Director
American Oceans Campaign

Dave Raney
Sierra Club 
Coral Reef Working Group 
Pacific NGO Representative to the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force 

Dr. Robert Wilder
Conservation Director
Pacific Whale Foundation 

Jim Waltman
Director, Refuges and Wildlife
The Wilderness Society

Kristin Valette
PADI Project AWARE Foundation

 CC:    Honorable Donald Evans 
Honorable Donna M. Christensen
Honorable James V. Hansen
Honorable Nick J. Rahall
Honorable Charles Turnbull
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