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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 20, 2006

Audubon Society thanks Lingle, again

Associated Press

Gov. Linda Lingle said it came as a surprise several months ago when she was greeted in her morning paper by an ad thanking her for helping to protect the fragile environments of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

A framed version of the full-page, color thank-you was presented to Lingle yesterday by the Hawaii Audubon Society in a ceremony with members of a number of Hawaiian and environmental groups, including Na Imi Pono, Earthjustice, the Bishop Museum and the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs.

"It's not that you do things so that someone will put an ad in the paper. But it's still nice when it happens," Lingle said.

In September, Lingle signed state rules creating the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands State Marine Refuge. The rules of the refuge ban fishing and limit public access to the islands that stretch across some 1,400 miles beginning more than 100 miles northwest of Kaua'i.

Traditional Hawaiian cultural practices, however, would be allowed in the area.

Rugged and stunningly beautiful, the islands are home to delicate coral reefs teeming with fish, families of endangered Hawaiian monk seals and the nests of 14 million sea birds.

The area is currently in the process of being considered for a National Marine Sanctuary. And the state has asked the federal government to extend the state fishing ban into the proposed sanctuary area, which extends about 50 miles from shore.

Through the help of local federal officials and Jim Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the islands succeeded in getting more than a moment of President Bush's time recently, Lingle said.

On April 5, Lingle attended a screening of a documentary about the islands at the White House.

She said Bush and documentarian Jean-Michel Cousteau fell into an involved conversation at a dinner after the film.

Linda Paul, executive director of the Hawaii Audubon Society, said her group and others are now pushing to have the island region designated a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, World Heritage Site.

The state had also announced in September that it would pursue the status for the islands.