Poop Dreams

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.
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