Trump’s Next Giveaway to Polluters: Marine Monuments and Sanctuaries

Jul 24, 2017

By Alexandra Wisner, Government Affairs Intern

First, he attacked our public lands, and now he’s attacking our public waters.

Since taking office, President Trump has demonstrated time and time again that he’s willing to sacrifice environmental safeguards in favor of industry profits, especially to help out his friends in the oil and gas industry. In a disturbing but unfortunately not surprising move, earlier this year President Trump ordered a review of 11 Marine National Monuments and National Marine Sanctuaries that were designated or expanded under the Bush and Obama administrations. These public waters protect important cultural and ecological areas of our oceans and Great Lakes and enjoy broad public support. The review, however, is specifically looking at “the potential energy and mineral exploration and production from the Outer Continental Shelf,” making it clear the intent is not to figure out how to further protect our treasured waters, but simply to figure out how to give more of them away to industry.

Opening these areas to oil, gas and mineral exploration makes little sense, economic, environmental, and otherwise. Currently, there are 16.1 million acres of federal waters under oil and gas leases, but of these, a whopping 73 percent are not producing oil or natural gas. Why is the administration looking to put additional marine resources at risk when its current leases are not fully productive?

Meanwhile, Marine National Monuments and National Marine Sanctuaries stand to benefit local communities when used by environmentally-friendly industries—which are not dependent on extraction—such as tourism and productive fisheries. National Marine Sanctuaries alone generate $8 billion from over 42 million visitors annually.  Further, in California, nearly one-third of all commercial fishing catch comes from the four National Marine Sanctuaries off the state’s coast.

By ordering Secretary Ross to conduct this review, President Trump is ignoring the opinions of the many diverse stakeholders that support protecting these special areas, as well as decisions made by past presidents and Congresses.  National Marine Sanctuaries are designated under the National Marine Sanctuaries Act and go through long periods of public comment as well as congressional review before being designated.  National Marine Monuments are protected by presidential action under the Antiquities Act and also undergo an extensive process that includes public input.  If the president and Secretary Ross reverse the designations or expansions of these public waters, which it seems very likely they will do, it is a slap in the face to all who worked tirelessly to get these beautiful, unique and crucial waters protected.

We need to take action NOW to protect these areas, which are already under stress from a changing climate and other pressures.  Submit your comment supporting our National Marine Monuments and National Marine Sanctuaries before the comment period closes at midnight on July 26.