While the world is captivated by the World Cup soccer matches being played in Brazil, Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl's release from the hospital and the latest Kardashian melodrama, President Barack Obama announced on June 17, 2014 that he will use every bit of his authority to expand the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument from its current size of almost 87,000 square miles to nearly a million square miles. The State Department hosted an oceans conference also attended by actor Leonardo DiCaprio last week and it was at this event, via video message, that the president made his announcement.
While President Obama has used his executive power 11 times while in office, illegally according to many citizens and Washington, D.C. officials, this is the first time he has stated his intent to do so to protect what he calls "some of our most precious marine landscapes." Republicans, especially, will likely be doing all they can to stop the president from moving forward with this plan as it is one of the major areas of the ocean in which tuna fisherman support themselves. In addition to banning fishing in this remote area of the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and American Samoa, the president's executive decision would also ban oil drilling and any other activities the White House deems detrimental to the environment.
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash., said in a statement on Tuesday, "This is yet another example of how an imperial president is intent on taking unilateral action, behind closed doors, to impose new regulations and layers of restrictive red-tape." Other Republican insiders and top officials are likely to weigh in as well as the current administration moves forward with this plan to create a marine preserve that will total approximately 782,000 square miles.
The area of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument currently include Baker Island, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Palmyra Atoll and Wake Atoll. None of these areas are open to the public, although some special permits are granted for some areas. These permits are for the purposes of biological research, environmental surveys and the recovery of sunken vessels.
While an open comment period is currently underway, the White House's Council on Environmental Quality is hopeful that the plan will begin to take effect before the end of the year.