Select Committee Releases Climate Report

Posted Posted in Advocacy, Policy, Take Action

Select Committee on the Climate Crisis Report: Release is Today!

By Sophia Zengierski

Back in January, the House of Representatives put together the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. Since then, its members have been working with leaders on climate to determine recommendations on policies and strategies to ensure a better future for generations to come. After these months of investigations and hearings, the Committee released a report of findings today, June 30th. 

Made up of members from both side of the aisle and across of myriad of states, what the Committee puts forward will affect us all. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we know that our fate and the planet’s are one. As such we need to focus on protecting our environment, including our ocean, which contributes greatly to the planet’s overall wellbeing through regulating weather and temperature. 

At the Inland Ocean Coalition, we are excited to see the report from the Select Committee, especially the recommendations they put forward for communities. To help the report’s reach, share it with your friends and family and write to your legislators to let them know that you believe these recommendations should be taken seriously and that we need action on climate change to safeguard our future. 

For more information, you can check out the Committee’s website: Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. You can also follow the Committee on social media @climatecrisis.

On the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Rollback

Posted Posted in Advocacy, Policy, Take Action

By Sophia Zengierski

In a time of national division and crisis, President Trump has chosen to roll back protections on the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. Signing this executive order means opening the area up and putting wildlife and habitats at risk. 

This map shows the area designated as protected by the monument.

In the race to protect 30% of the Earth’s land and seas by 2030, every protected area counts. But why are protected areas so important? Quite frankly, marine protected areas allow the species and ecosystems to flourish, undeterred by unexpected human activity. We have already seen the enormous capability the ocean, and nature, has to rehabilitate if given the opportunity. Providing a safe haven for animals and other marine life allows them to better cope with other stressors such as climate change and acidification. Typically, fully protected areas have as much as 600% of biomass restored.

However, wildlife are not the only beneficiaries of MPAs. Our human population derives a great benefit as well. MPAs enhance food security, promote marine tourism and the jobs that creates, and provide resilience against climate change and other global crises.  Furthermore, the American public values environmental protections with 86% of Americans supporting protecting 30% of the ocean by 2030 and 95% supporting the development and maintenance of marine protected areas. As the only marine monument in the Northeast, the Seamounts represent a vital stake in our protection of our oceans. 

On World Environment Day and in the middle of World Oceans month, we should be taking the opportunity to learn and support the nature that surrounds us. But as we face challenges throughout the country, there comes a great strength in collaborating to build a positive future. No matter where we come from or the experiences we face, we are all dependent upon the sea. And together we can work to defend and protect our environment. 

 

Image Credit: The Pew Foundation

 

Conservation Under the Trump Administration

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Clean Water, Policy, Take Action

By Jacob Villalobos, trained Ocean Ranger and Inland Ocean Coalition volunteer

The Trump administration has a very different definition of conservation.

Following the December announcement that the sizes of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments of Utah will be greatly reduced, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke released the next step for “responsible extraction” of America’s oil and gas resources along the nation’s coast.

The National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program will potentially open up 90 percent of the Outer Continental Region of America’s coastlines to “exploration and development,” regions of American marine ecosystems that were originally set aside for extended preservation and recovery by previous administrations. “Responsibly developing our energy resources on the Outer Continental Shelf in a safe and well-regulated way is important to our economy and energy security, and it provides billions of dollars to fund the conservation of our coastlines, public lands and parks,” said Zinke.

Zinke and the Department of the Interior, in a press release in Late December, went on to say that the administration is leaving behind a “Conservation stewardship legacy, second only to Roosevelt,” while simultaneously placing emphasis on the expansion of hunting and fishing in ten wildlife refuges where such activities are currently strictly regulated. Despite the continued outcry against the reduction of America’s refuges and monuments, the Trump administration continues to reframe the definitions of conservation to include the potential for heavy resource extraction, a disregard for biodiversity, and ultimately, a strong emphasis on the acquisition of profits.

In response to the announcement by Zinke, 2.8 million Americans submitted public comments to the White House urging the administration to reconsider reductions to the sizes of the many monuments that are up for review, which Zinke promptly ignored.

The pushback from American mayors from states along the coastline was swift, with the majority directly opposing the proposal, citing the importance of fishing, the wellbeing of marine biodiversity, and tourism revenue, which provides coastal communities and the economy at large with billions of dollars every year. The move, if finalized, would expose vast swaths of coastline to further risk of extraction accidents as well as to the threat of seismic survey technology, a practice in petroleum and gas exploration in which sound waves are used to discover untapped oil and gas reservoirs. The practice has been highly criticized by scientists and activists, citing severe harm to migratory species who utilized sound for communication and navigation purposes, among other issues.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management open comment period ends March 9th, and we need as many voices as possible to create a conservation chorus based upon compassion, science, unity, and truth. Together we can protect the entirety of the US coast from further exploitation and unnecessary, long term damage to precious marine life and delicate ecosystems. Together, we cannot be ignored.

Please join us

Stand Up for Our Marine Sanctuaries and Monuments

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Advocacy, Policy, Take Action

By Jacob Villalobos, a trained Colorado Ocean Coalition Ocean Ranger

We all eat. We all breathe. We require water to live, and we are all subject to the effects of the weather and climate. No matter where you may be in this world, the ocean makes all of our lives possible. In our day to day lives, it can be easy to carry on without considering the natural processes that allow us to sustain our economies, enable our cultures, and plan for future generations. It can be difficult to comprehend the many connections we have to the ocean, especially if you live away from the coasts. But nonetheless, we are all critically dependent on a healthy, functioning ocean. And a healthy ocean requires an informed, mobilized public ready to protect it.

President Donald Trump has signed an executive order that would allow for the expansion of oil and gas exploration along US coastlines, a move that would endanger a host of marine sanctuaries along both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, American Samoa, and Hawaii. The “America-First Offshore Energy Strategy” aims to allow fossil fuel companies to expand their reach into regions of the American coast and beyond that were recently set aside for conservation by the Obama administration. In doing so, the future of 11 protected areas may be in jeopardy, as the Trump administration will begin to review the policy behind each sanctuary to either limit or abolish their protected status and weaken their protective capabilities.

President Barack Obama invoked a provision in the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act of 1953 to permanently ban the development of offshore drilling practices along large portions of the Atlantic and Alaskan coasts, an unprecedented act that would ensure his environmental legacy following the Paris Climate Accord and the designation of numerous American monuments and reserves, both on land and sea. In continuing his quest to dismantle the Obama legacy, President Trump has promised to revitalize the fossil fuel industry by crippling numerous environmental regulations he claims are harmful to the economy. Despite the downward trend in oil and gas prices and the continued rise of renewable energy, President Trump is adamant that the revival of American prominence on the world stage lies in our continued reliance on an outdated and dangerous energy system. He has said, “Renewed offshore energy production will reduce the cost of energy, create countless new jobs, and make America more secure and far more energy independent.”

National Marine Sanctuaries and Marine Monuments are both types of marine protected areas (MPAs). The primary difference between the two is the process by which they are designated and the laws under which they are established. More broadly, marine protected areas are regions of seas, oceans, estuaries, and lake and river systems that are designated as limited or no use areas for the purpose of conserving biodiversity, ecosystems, and natural resources.

This is a centuries old idea that received modern revision during the 1950s and 1960s as fish stocks and marine resources began to plummet under the weight of industrial pressures. Using the Antiquities Act of 1906, a statute enacted by President Theodore Roosevelt, President Obama protected over 550 million acres of land and sea, and more than doubled the existing size of MPAs in the US, including the massive Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, one of the largest marine protected areas in the world.

The Trump Administration, through the Department of Commerce, has announced a 30 day public comment period on the review of National Marine Sanctuaries and Marine National Monuments Designated or Expanded since April 28, 2007. This review opens up our nation’s underwater treasures to the threat of oil and gas exploration and development and the myriad dangers that come with this – seismic airgun blasting, oil spills, and an increase in the greenhouse gases that are warming our planet with devastating impacts on our ocean.

As citizens of inland America, it is essential that we be aware of the importance of marine protected areas, not only for their aesthetic value, but for their ability to revitalize and sustain natural resources that are critical to the wellbeing of our ourselves, our economy, and the generations that will come after us. Our communal waste, be it plastics, agricultural runoff, or industrial pollution, inevitably finds it way into the ocean, as we have seen in dramatic fashion with the rise of massive garbage patches and vast dead zones where little life can thrive. Our food and transportation choices impact marine food webs, creating emissions that are absorbed by the seas, increasing ocean acidity and and temperature and contributing to the melting of the planet’s ice sheets. Although we may live our lives hundreds or thousands of miles from a coastline, our actions and our knowledge of the collective impact of humanity on the ocean will nonetheless have an effect on its long term functionality and resilience.

Putting America first means protecting its natural treasures for all Americans, not exploiting their resources for short term gain for a very select few. It means keeping an eye on future generations and actively preparing a world for them that is as rich and beautiful for them as it has been for us. It means recognizing the true economic potential that lies in maintaining the oceans as they are, not in exploiting the combustible refuse of an ancient world that no longer exists. It means disseminating knowledge, founded in sound science, that opens our eyes to the true complexity of the seas, creating a community of inclusivity where all people identify with their many connections to the ocean. With the continued rise of denialism and rhetoric aimed at discrediting scientists and the realities of the dire state of this beautiful blue planet, the power of our communal voice has never been so important.

Take Action!
The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation has written a letter to Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross in opposition to revoking or weakening any of the designations or expansions of national marine sanctuaries and marine national monuments that are under review. Please add your name today and/or submit a comment to the Federal Register on why protecting these areas is important to you.