More than 8,100 acres of tropical rain forest on the islands of Tutuila and Ta'u in American Samoa were recommended as a national park Thursday, by botanists, naturalists and delegation of Samoan chiefs.
Dr. Paul Cox, a Brigham Young University professor, acted as interpreter for the Samoans, who told the House National Parks Subcommittee that "the sunny isles" deserve park status.Cox has helped lead the effort to establish a park on the islands. He called the park a way of showing U.S. concern for the preservation of rain forests that are falling under chain saws and bulldozers in many countries. He said the U.S. has less than one-half of one percent of the world's tropical rain forests, but "we can set an example" in Samoa.
The 8,170-acre park being proposed would include 17 percent of the 48,778 acres of land surface on the five islands and two atolls that make up the American-held Samoan islands.
Because land on the islands is held communally by Samoan families and villages and sale of land requires 100 percent agreement of the people involved, the park land would be leased by the Park Service under a 50-year contract. Cost of the lease would be determined through negotiation between the Secretary of Interior and the Governor of Samoa.
Village chiefs from Samoa appeared in Washington to support the park idea, which they hope will attract additional U.S. tourists to the Samoan islands.
Anthropologists believe the proposed park lands have been maintained by the Samoans as pristine forests for more than 2,000 years.
Samoa was discovered by western navigators in 1722, but was not accurately located on charts until 1791. The islands were surveyed by U.S. Captain John Wilkes in 1836, and Pago Pago was claimed as a coaling station by the U.S. in 1872. The islands were annexed by the U.S. in 1900.