Friends of the Mariana Trench Celebrate Public Participation in Management Plan

The Friends of the Mariana Trench thank the community for engaging in the recent public commenting process for the draft management plan for the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.

We also congratulate the CNMI government on its robust response to the draft management plan. The Friends were impressed and heartened by the thoughtful comments written by our elected officials and government agencies. Finally, we thank the local and national NGOs, scientists, and former federal government employees who took the time to participate.

“I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for our community to participate and comment on federal documents when given the opportunity,” said Sheila Babauta, Chair of Friends of the Mariana Trench and Chair of the CNMI legislature’s Natural Resources Committee. 

“I’m so grateful for all the efforts by the Friends of the Mariana Trench to gather, educate, and assist community members during the comment period of the draft management plan.”

US Fish and Wildlife Services and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration first released the draft management plan for the Monument in February of this year. The Friends ensured professional reviews of the draft by scientific experts and community development consultants. The collective input was condensed into a key take-aways reference sheet geared toward the public and offered information about the plan’s content, strengths, and weaknesses. 

“We often say we want a seat at the table,” Chair Babauta said about federal plans for the Northern Marianas. “This is one way to take advantage of that and voice your concerns, state your support, or ask questions.”

The Friends leveraged their website and social media to spread awareness of the Monument draft management plan and commenting process; hosted watch parties on Saipan and Tinian to allow community members from all islands to participate in federal virtual meeting sessions; performed outreach at the Ocean Fairs on Saipan and Rota and during Project Liffang, an entrepreneurial fair hosted by the United Carolinians Association in collaboration with the Carolinian Affairs Office and the CNMI Women’s Association; and held twelve public comment workshop sessions.

The Friends also received capacity support from the members of the National Ocean Protection Coalition and the Blue Nature Alliance in support of engaging the community during the comment process.

“Aside from our national partners, we would like to thank the Marianas Alliance of Nongovernmental Organizations and their staff for making their resource room available for our daily workshops,” said executive director, Laurie Peterka. “Last but definitely not least, a BIG shout out to all of FOMT staff for their hard work in organizing the watch parties, providing outreach booths at events, and presenting at the workshops too!”