From: Time
Published January 8, 2009 08:31 AM

President Bush's Last Act of Greenness

Over the course of his two terms in office, President George W. Bush has taken a lot of mostly justified flak from environmentalists. But there's one area where Bush can legitimately claim a deep-green legacy: the oft overlooked field of ocean conservation.

In 2006 Bush established the 140,000-sq.-mi. Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument off the northwestern coast of the Hawaiian Islands — at the time, the largest protected marine area in the U.S. Tuesday afternoon, however, Bush will beat his own record, announcing the creation of three separate marine national monuments in the central Pacific Ocean that together will span some 195,000 sq. mi. Though greens were hoping for an even larger area, taken together, the marine monuments will mean that President Bush — perhaps the least environmental President in U.S. history — will have protected more of the ocean than anyone else in the world. "He deserves a huge amount of credit for this," says Jay Nelson, director of the Pew Environment Group's Global Ocean Legacy Program, which has long lobbied for the protected areas. (See pictures of the world water crisis.)

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The three marine monuments will include the northern Marianas Islands and the Mariana Trench (the deepest point in the world), the Rose Atoll near American Samoa and several remote islands in the middle of the Pacific, including Wake Island. The monuments will be declared protected under the Antiquities Act, a 1906 law that gives the President the authority to restrict the use of public land owned by the Federal Government via executive order without consulting Congress. Initially designed to protect prehistoric Indian ruins in the American West from grave robbers, the law has been used more recently as a way to fast-track protection of areas without the lengthy Congressional process of creating a new national park. "This will protect some of the nation's and the world's most pristine resources," says James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

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