OHA supports monument expansion

HONOLULU — The Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees is supporting the expansion of Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, with a few conditions.

In an announcement, sent to TGI Tuesday, OHA said the board supports the expansion outlined by U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz provided that OHA is elevated to a co-trustee position, the cultural significance of the expansion area to Native Hawaiians is recognized, and there is no boundary expansion southeast toward the islands of Niiahu and Kauai.

“By becoming a co-trustee, we will have a greater voice and more influence on policy, protections and programmatic activities,” said Kamana’opono Crabbe, CEO of OHA. “We will be able to create prospects for cultural research that has scientific implications and for Native Hawaiian students to maintain the spiritual, intellectual and genealogical bond with the islands traversed by their forefathers.”

The Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument began as a national wildlife refuge in 1940 under the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt and went through several phases until 2006, when President George W. Bush designated it as a national monument under the 1906 Antiquities Act.

Now, on the 10-year anniversary of the monument’s establishment, a group of seven Native Hawaiians has asked President Barack Obama to extend the boundaries of Papahanaumokuakea 200 miles on all sides, except the southern boundary — to avoid cutting off access from the middle banks and the weather buoys.

The monument is 139,797 square miles. If the president declares the expansion, it would create the largest marine protected area on Earth.

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