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Clinton to put Hawaiian reefs under federal protection

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Clinton planned to put 84 million acres of undersea coral reefs off Hawaii under federal protection Monday, the latest in a series of orders establishing environmental preserves.

Clinton was to issue an executive order establishing the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Reserve, which will be the largest protected area in the United States, an administration official said. The 1,200-mile-long reserve would encompass about 70 percent of the coral reefs within U.S. waters.

Clinton will make the announcement during a speech Monday morning to the National Geographic Society in Washington. The order places an area of the Pacific floor larger than the states of Florida and Georgia combined under federal environmental protection, said the official, who asked to remain unidentified.

During his final year in office, the president has used his executive authority on a number of occasions to protect public lands. White House orders have banned mining and logging in the Grand Canyon's watershed and in parts of California's Sequoia National Forest.

The move will protect the monk seal and the sea turtle, both considered endangered species. Concerns about the reserve center around its impact on fishing, and whether the federal government has jurisdiction over the state's coral reefs.

The Hawaiian coral reserve would be off-limits to oil and gas drilling, mineral production and coral removal. Commercial and recreational fishing would be capped at current levels in most of the area.

Fishing and anchoring would be banned in 15 preserve areas that comprise about 4 million acres -- roughly 5 percent of the total reserve. Fishing for cultural and subsistence purposes would be allowed.

The official said a report unveiled last month at an International Coral Reef Symposium warned that one-half of the world's coral reefs could disappear in the next 25 years for a variety of reasons, including anchoring, pollution and global warming.

Clinton issued an executive order in May directing federal agencies to devise a way to protect the Hawaiian coral reefs and to address threats to other marine areas. The official said that after receiving public input, the administration worked out a plan with the state of Hawaii and its congressional delegation.

 
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Monday, December 4, 2000


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