Poop Dreams

| February 26, 2001

Poop Dreams, Brennen Jensen, Baltimore CityPaper
Navassa Island is a two square-mile guano-covered rock 40 miles off the coast of Haiti. In an extensive 'story about bird shit' in the Baltimore alternative weekly CityPaper, Brennen Jensen recounts the 140-year saga of this hunk of coral covered with bird droppings, and explains why so many peoplewant a piece of it. Forgotten for nearly 75 years, since the Baltimore-based Navassa Phosphate Company abandoned its guano mining operations there, the island was rediscovered five years ago by Bill Warren, a fiftysomething former professional gospel singer and treasure hunter from San Diego. When Warren tried to claim Navassa under the Guano Islands Act, an obscure 1864 federal law that encouraged entrepeneurs to stake out and mine these piles of poop to supply the post-Civil War agricultural boom, he was ignored. But he persisted, filing a lawsuit in 1997 against Bill Clinton, Bruce Babbit, the Interior Department and others. His efforts have put the island back on the map, but they have also drawn attention from others with competing claims to the rock, including Interior Department biologists, who want to protect its unique habitat, a Baltimore man and heir to the defunct Navassa Phosphate Co., and the Haitian government, which once fought the U.S. navy (and lost) over a territorial claim to the island.
--Leif Utne
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