- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 23, 2017

HONOLULU (AP) - More than 30,000 people have offered their thoughts about the country’s protected areas, including ones near Hawaii, in the first five days of President Donald Trump’s call for monument designation public comment.

Public comment opened Friday and ends July 10, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported (https://bit.ly/2q7sMEZ ). Trump had called for a U.S. Department of Interior online system for the public to give their thoughts about U.S. protected areas. The public comment period comes after the department opened a review of more than 24 federally protected areas, including the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument and Pacific Remote Islands.

“We are showing the rationale and evidence of the expanded protections for both Papahanaumokuakea and the Pacific Remote Islands, and we are also, during this public comment period, going to generate more public support comments,” said Sheila Sarhangi, Hawaii campaign director for the expansion of the two monuments.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is expected to recommend to the president after the comment period whether any of the monuments protecting natural resources should have boundaries changed or rescinded.

Trump had questioned in April whether or not monument designations are government overreach. The discussion has reopened a political battle in Hawaii that had been believed to be settled after former President Barrack Obama made the decision last year to expand the marine national monument by hundreds of thousands of square miles. The move by Obama had been to protect coral reefs and marine habitats from activities such as commercial fishing and mineral mining.

Obama’s designation had been met with a rally questioning the decision. And since Trump’s election, there have been more strides to restore commercial fishing in the marine national monument’s area.

A majority of the public comments so far, including those specifically written in regard to the marine national monument; have urged the Trump administration to keep the protections in place.


Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, https://www.staradvertiser.com

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