Plans for National Park on CNMI's Rota hit opposition

2:03 pm on 23 September 2020

A plan to include Rota historical and cultural sites in the US national park system has met opposition from residents of the southernmost island of the Northern Marianas.

The coast of Rota in the CNMI.

The coast of Rota in the CNMI. Photo: CT Snow

One resident said the recommendations of a Special Resource Study to establish a National Historic Park on the island was akin to a naked land grab.

During a virtual public meeting 65-year-old Catherine Flores McCallum said she didn't want to see her children have to fight for their land after the establisment of a national park.

Joel Charfauros, a retired police officer, said the proposed protected limestone forests under the plan would cover roughly 52 percent of Rota.

He wondered how the federal government would compensate land owners.

Former Rota casino commissioner Justin Manglona feared that Rota might end up like Farallon de Medinilla where the US military paid two cents per square metre - or just over $US20,000 for 100 years, for the rights to bomb it.

NPS earlier said that based on preliminary results of its special resource study, Chamorro archeological sites, Second World War Japanese defensive sites, and limestone forests on Rota appeared to be nationally significant and suitable for inclusion in the national park system.

Three alternative concepts are under the plan to develop a Rota National Historic Park.

Option one is to continue the current management by the Commonwealth and Rota municipal government agencies; option two is for the governments to enter into a management agreement with the National Park System for a Chamorro Historical Park measuring about 526 hectares; while option three is for a limestone forest and Second World War sites park of about 1,780 hectares.