President Obama just put his home state front and center in the discussion over protecting environmental areas in a big, big way.
Hawaii owes a big thanks to its most famous native son: President Barack Obama. The president has just created the largest ecologically protected area on the planet after he expanded a national marine monument to include more than a half million square miles.
He essentially quadrupled the size of Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument to 582,578 square miles, which is located in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. It was his predecessor, George W. Bush, who established the monument about 10 years ago, but Obama decided to expand on it as part of his push for conservation and climate change issues as his final term wraps up.
This comes as good news to scientists and environmentalists, who have fought for more land to be protected as concerns grow over the state of our planet. The threats of climate change and sea-bed mining have threatened formerly pristine environments such as Papahanaumokuakea.
“The expansion provides critical protections for more than 7,000 marine species, including whales and sea turtles listed under the Endangered Species Act and the longest-living marine species in the world — black coral, which have been found to live longer than 4,500 years,” the White House statement reads. “Additionally, 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.
“The expanded monument area also contains resources of great historical and cultural significance,” it adds. “The expanded area, including the archipelago and its adjacent waters, is considered a sacred place for the Native Hawaiian community. It plays a significant role in Native Hawaiian creation and settlement stories, and is used to practice important activities like traditional long-distance voyaging and wayfinding. Additionally, within the monument expansion area, there are shipwrecks and downed aircraft from the Battle of Midway in World War II, a battle that marked a major shift in the progress of the war in favor of the Allies.”