Rose Atoll National Wildlife Refuge – A Wild Paradise

**ALERT: This afternoon, Secretary Zinke announced his intention to recommend to President Trump that the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah be greatly reduced in size. While no decision was announced regarding the marine monuments, this is not a good sign that the Secretary will honor the decision of previous Presidents in their use of the Antiquities Act. With this decision on Bears Ears, it makes it much more likely that he recommends these marine monuments will be reduced.**  

In celebration of Capitol Hill Ocean Week, we will be highlighting important marine national monuments and their national wildlife refuges. Despite the fact that the majority of us will never be able to visit these natural wonders, all of us can appreciate the importance of protecting these landscapes and the wildlife that reside in them. Today, we highlight Rose Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.

Rose Atoll National Wildlife Refuge | Tandem Stills + Motion
Rose Atoll National Wildlife Refuge | Tandem Stills + Motion

In January of 2009, President George W. Bush used his authority under the Antiquities Act to establish the Rose Atoll Marine National Monument. The designation protects approximately 13,451 square miles of land and water, including the Rose Atoll National Wildlife Refuge with 1,600 acres of lagoon. The nearly square atoll was originally designated as a national wildlife refuge in 1973, with the additional designation of marine monument protecting the waters surrounding the atoll.

President Trump has ordered Secretary of Interior Zinke to review Rose Atoll’s monument designation, potentially imperiling the effective conservation efforts of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and its partners. Rose Atoll and its surrounding waters should be preserved at all costs.

Located about 170 miles east of Tutilla, American Samoa’s main island, Rose Atoll provides refuge for diverse marine life. Some of these species have declined worldwide by as much as 98%, including giant clams, Maori wrasse, large parrotfishes, and gray reef sharks. The Atoll is home to over 110 species of coral, providing beautiful cover of the outer slope. Despite its small size, Rose Atoll supports the largest populations of nesting sea turtles and seabirds in American Samoa.

Rose Atoll National Wildlife Refuge | Tandem Stills + Motion
Rose Atoll National Wildlife Refuge | Tandem Stills + Motion

Rose Atoll has a rich human history. The early Polynesians of Samoa likely visited for over a millennium, naming the island “Motu o Manu” meaning “island of seabirds.” The name “Rose” was given by Captain Louis de Freycinet on October 21, 1819 in honor of his wife who experienced the island with him. Since then, there have only been short periods of time where humans have inhabited the island. However, the island’s high fish density is fostering a sustainable fishing supply for American Samoa for years to come.

The monument also offers invaluable scientific knowledge. The first scientist came to the island in 1839, a physician naturalist named Dr. Charles Pickering. Since then, over 300 reports and papers have been published on the area’s geography, biology, meteorology, and geology. The atoll’s marine and terrestrial communities continue to provide a unique research opportunity for a wide variety of studies.

Tragically, disaster struck in October of 1993: a Taiwanese vessel grounded and broke on the Atoll, discharging 100,000 gallons of diesel fuel aboard into the marine environment. While the wildlife was temporarily devastated, ambitious recovery efforts by the USFWS ensured the last remaining debris was removed in 2007. Also in 1993, the USFWS successfully eradicated invasive rats on the island, facilitating the growth of vascular plant species.

We don’t know what the outcome of Secretary Zinke’s review will be. But, we have the support of the law and the American people behind us on the side of preserving the monument designation. The monument review is considering whether the designated lands are “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, [or] other objects of historic or scientific interest,” qualifications clearly embodied by Rose Atoll.

Meanwhile, over hundreds of thousands of citizens have submitted comments, expressing support for our treasured habitats. An attack on one monument is an attack on all monuments; conservation advocates across the country must work together to defend them. Want to contribute to the effort?

Make your voice heard!

Permanent link to this article: https://www.refugeassociation.org/2017/06/rose-atoll-national-wildlife-refuge-one-of-our-nations-treasures/

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