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Rota Cultural and Natural Resources Study Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. SABLAN. Mr. Speaker, today I am re-introducing the Rota Cultural and Natural Resources Study Act. The bill authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to study the suitability and feasibility of designating certain areas of prehistoric, historic, and natural significance on the island of Rota in the Northern Mariana Islands as a unit of the National Park System.

Rota is truly a ``jewel,'' as the gentlewoman from California, Ms. Napolitano, called the island at last year's hearing on this same bill. National Park Service representatives who conducted a reconnaissance survey there in 2004 reported that Rota has the best-preserved village sites of the ancient Chamorro people and that Rota's native limestone forests provide habitat to locally and federally protected, rare bird species.

The House of Representatives approved the Rota Park study under suspension of the rules in July last year. There was no objection or controversy. But, unfortunately, the other body did not have time on its agenda to act before the 111th Congress ended.

Now, I ask that we quickly restart the process of having the Park Service study the suitability and feasibility of designating parts of Rota for a national park.

There are time pressures involved. Rota is at a crossroads. Major land use changes are possible resulting from development by the U.S. military on the neighboring island of Guam. We have to know which areas on Rota can be and need to be protected, so that the people of Rota can maintain the important cultural and natural features of their island while at the same time taking advantage of opportunities for economic development.

For these reasons the leaders of Rota support the study. The Honorable Teresita Santos, Rota's representative in the Northern Mariana Islands House of Representatives, flew to Washington, DC to speak in support of the bill at the hearing by Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oceans, Wildlife and Insular Affairs last year.

The Mayor of Rota, the Honorable Melchor Mendiola, submitted his letter for the record during last year's consideration of the bill in the House. He, too, supported passage.

Today, I am including another letter of support for the study bill. This letter is from the Honorable Paul S. Manglona, President of the Northern Mariana Islands Senate, who represents Rota in the Senate.

And, of course, the National Park Service reconnaissance survey also recommended that the cultural and natural resources are truly of national significance and that the appropriate next step is a suitability and feasibility study.

The people of Rota have done a tremendous job over the millennia in protecting the treasures of their remarkable island. Let us support their efforts. Let us determine whether this ``jewel'' should be considered by Congress for inclusion in the National Park System.

I ask that my colleagues support the Rota Cultural and Natural Resources Study Act.

The Senate,
Northern Marianas Commonwealth Legislature,

Saipan, MP, March 15, 2011.

Hon. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan,

Delegate, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Cannon House Office Building, Washington, DC.

DEAR CONGRESSMAN, I am writing to support the Rota Cultural and Natural Resources Study Act (Act). The Act authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to study the suitability of designating prehistoric, historic and limestone forest sites on Rota as a unit of the National Park System.

As testified to by Commonwealth Legislator Representative Teresita Santos for the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans, and Insular Affairs, the Island of Rota is unique in the Marianas as the only primarily inhabited island spared fighting during World War II. Consequently, plant and animal life was spared the near total destruction similar on Saipan and Tinian.

Archaeologists describe Rota as having the most intact and numerous historic sites of any island in the Mariana Archipelago. Rota has the best examples in the Marianas of Latte houses, the ancient stone houses of the Chamorro culture. Four prehistoric sites on Rota are included in the Register of Historic Places, Monchon Archeological District, Taga Latte Stone Quarry, the Dugi Archeological Site, and the Chugai Pictograph Cave containing examples of ancient Chamorro rock art.

In addition to prehistoric sites, historic relics from the Japanese period--on the Historic Register of Historic Places--include Kohatsu Kabushiki Kaisha Sugar Mill, Japanese Coastal Defense Gun and the Japanese Hospital.

Natural resources are prevalent on Rota primarily due to its native limestone forests that provide habitat for federally endangered listed species including the Mariana crow and the Rota bridled white-eye birds, in addition to two (2) plant species endemic to Rota.

The National Park Service completed a preliminary resource assessment regarding Rota in 2005, concluding designating Rota as part of the national park system appeared to be the best way to ensure the long term protection of Rota's pre-historic and historic natural and man-made habitat and structures. I strongly encourage you, along with the Rota Legislative Delegation, to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to study the suitability of designating prehistoric, historic and limestone forest sites on Rota as a unit of the National Park System.

Sincerely,

Paul A. Manglona,

Senate President.


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