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Preserving Paradise

Huge patch of Hawaiian reefs gets monumental protection

Dozens of sun-drenched atolls and reefs jut out of Hawaii's northwestern waters, creating an archipelago some 1,400 miles long. Virtually free of human habitation, those islands' sandy beaches may look like ideal spots to get away from it all. But to marine biologists, this region is the place to find it all—lush biodiversity and ecosystems little stressed by human presence.

On June 15, President George W. Bush designated the waters throughout this region as the Northwest Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument. The largest marine protected area in the world, it spans from Kure Atoll in the west to Nihoa Island in the east. Its area—139,000 square miles—is nearly the size of Montana.

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