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Palmyra Atoll

Palmyra Atoll

Nature Conservancy 

A Race to Preserve Tropical Paradise
By Seth Borenstein, San Jose Mercury News , May 4, 2000

WASHINGTON- Rare birds squawking at near-deafening levels blacken the skies. On the shoreline, the world's largest crabs crack open the plentiful coconuts and scoot among the roots of leaning tropical palms. Underwater, the United States' most diverse coral reefs glow with color.

Maps call this uninhabited speck of a Pacific atoll Palmyra. If a leading environmental conservation group can raise $37 million to buy, improve, and maintain it, it will be a paradise saved.

The Nature Conservancy today will air its plan to snatch Palmyra, once a playground for real pirates, from the hands of would-be developers who had dreamed of casinos, commercial fishing facilities and even a dump for spent nuclear fuel on the U.S. possession.

The Nature Conservancy has raised $10 million from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation of Los Altos and five anonymous donors, including two from Silicon Valley. The Washington-based Nature Conservancy plans to keep the most developed part of the atoll, about 220 acres, as its own sanctuary for ecotourism and to woo potential donors. It plans to see the remaining 460 acres to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for $9.25 million. For four years, Palmyra has been the Fish and Wildlife Service's top acquisition priority. It will become a wildlife refuge.

"Palmyra is the Yellowstone of the future," Assistant Interior Department Secretary John Berry said Wednesday. So far, geography has saved Palmyra. The only way of getting there is a six day boat trip from Hawaii, which lies more than 1,000 miles north.

"The remoteness has kept it at an extremely pristine state," said Nature Conservancy Vice President Nancy Mackinnon. And that's fine by the federal government. "This is a particular place that has everything we want and there's nobody there," said Bill Brown, science advisor to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt. "This is a wonderful time to step in and say we're going to protect it."


Recovery: The Miracle on Palmyra by Ted Williams  |  December 15, 2015


Palmyra Goes Greener  |  December 2015/January 2016

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