Washington, DC – Rota moved one step closer to having a National Park today – and one step closer to the jobs and economic development that such a park would bring. The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1141, legislation authorizing the Secretary of the Interior to study archaeological, historical and natural resources on Rota for inclusion in the National Park system.
A 2005 Interior Department field survey found that Monchon Latte Stone Village, the Chugai Pictograph Cave, and other ancient sites on Rota have national significance and should be protected. The “suitability and feasibility” study approved today will look more closely at competing land uses and help identify which areas should be made a National Park.
“Creating a National Park is not a quick or easy process,” explained Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, who authored H.R. 1141. “Only America’s true national treasures can achieve that status.
“Rota has what it takes, though. The archaeologically important remains of the ancient Chamorro people and the rare and endangered species of plant and animal life in Rota’s limestone forests are exactly the kind of crown jewels that the National Park system is designed to protect for all time.”
Sablan managed H.R. 1141 on the floor of the House of Representatives this afternoon. He offered particular thanks to Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah), who leads the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands, and his Democratic counterpart Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, as well as Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Washington) and Ranking Member Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts).
Sablan also noted the work of former CNMI Senator Diego M. Songao, head of the Rota Legislative Delegation, who in 2004 encouraged the National Park Service to conduct its initial reconnaissance of the cultural and natural resources of Rota. That effort resulted in the finding of national significance and the recommendation for a follow-up suitability and feasibility study.
Sablan also recalled the testimony of Rota Representative Teresita A. Santos, who traveled to Washington to speak before the Natural Resources Committee in 2010 in support of H.R. 4686, Sablan’s earlier Rota Park study bill, which passed the House but was not acted on by the U.S. Senate.
Rota Mayor Melchor A. Mendiola and CNMI Senate President Paul A. Manglona were recognized, too, by Congressman Kilili for their support, during the debate in the House today.
The Rota Cultural and Natural Resources Study Act seems well-timed. Last week, President Obama announced steps to increase foreign tourism to the United States by improving the visa system and by initiating new promotional efforts for America’s National Parks and other attractions.
Sablan said he welcomed the President’s commitment to expanding the number of countries that participate in the national visa waiver program, which makes it easier for visitors to enter the U.S.
“Being the closest part of America to the emerging economies of Asia, the Northern Marianas is eager to see new countries added to our visa waiver program.
“And we want to have the unique cultural and natural resources of our islands added to the national treasures the President intends to promote.
“We know that having areas on Rota designated as part of the National Park System will help create jobs in eco-tourism, transportation, hotels and restaurants for the people of today.
“We understand that protecting and preserving these nationally significant resources on Rota will also help ensure jobs for our children and grandchildren in the future.”
H.R. 1141 now goes to the Senate, where it will be referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.