I hope you will read the story about Academy Awardwinning director James Camerons historic voyage to the bottom of the Mariana Trench in this issue of Refuge Update. It is a fascinating story of exploration and science.
I am becoming more and more convinced that the marine national monuments we manage protect some of the most incredible and important wildlife and wild places on the planet. They also present us with a great challenge to expand our view
of conservation to include huge areas of ocean.
How do we undertake inventory and monitoring work and conduct scientific investigations on a scale so vastbeyond any we have done before? It will require partnerships on a similarly large scale.
The question reminds me of the early 1980s, when we were excited about protecting the huge new refuges created by passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) and at the same time faced the challenge of trying to figure out how to staff and manage such expansive acreage. Look at what we have done in Alaska over the past three decades.
Our refuge stewardship is some of the best in the world. We have done some of the best science in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Alaska wildlife refuges. We have learned the importance of working closely with Alaskas native people in a shared stewardship of fish, wildlife and habitat. Our wilderness stewardship and land ethic have deepened and grown. We have more work to do in all those areas, but I am very proud of our remarkable progress.
Now we must use the same creativity and imagination to bring about a new era in the Refuge System, one during which we become leaders in ocean conservation.
The National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 gives us a great framework. The conservation purposes of the marine national monuments come first, but compatible uses will be allowed. Scientific exploration will be an exciting way people will use these monuments, and we need to assure it is done right. We need to learn how to tell the story of these places. We need to expand Aldo Leopolds land ethic into the oceans.
Around the world, the need for ocean conservation is becoming more urgent. We can and must help to lead this effort.