07.18.17

Peters, Colleagues Raise Concerns over Trump Administration’s Possible Rollback of 11 Marine Sanctuary and Monument Expansions

Expansions Support Jobs and Economic Growth in Coastal Communities

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member of the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, led 19 of his colleagues in a bicameral letter urging U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross to extend the public comment period to ninety days on an executive order that could lead to the rollback or elimination of 11 marine sanctuaries and monuments created or expanded over the past decade and open these protected areas to oil and gas exploration. Marine sanctuaries and monuments are underwater protected parks that drive economic growth by supporting tourism, recreation, commercial fishing and research and educational activities in local coastal communities. Representative Salud Carbajal (CA-24) joined Peters to lead this effort in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, national marine sanctuaries generate $8 billion and support over 70,000 jobs in coastal communities from activities like commercial fishing, research, recreation and tourism,” wrote the Senators and Representatives.  “Protecting and preserving these treasured resources drives the local economies in many of these communities, and residents should have sufficient time to provide input and voice concerns about possible changes resulting from this review.”

Executive Order 13795 included language to instruct the Department of Commerce to conduct a review of all designations and expansions of National Marine Sanctuaries and Marine National Monuments since April 28, 2007. The 11 monuments and sanctuaries designated or expanded in the past decade include the Thunder Bay Marine Sanctuary in Michigan, Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in Hawaii, Rose Atoll Marine National Monument in American Samoa, and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary in California.

U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and U.S. Representatives Madeleine Bordallo (GU-01), Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02), Raul Grijalva (AZ-03), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Dan Kildee (MI-05), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Grace Meng (NY-06), Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), José Serrano (NY-15), Jackie Speier (CA-14), Thomas Suozzi (NY-03) and Nydia Velázquez (NY-07) joined Peters and Carbajal in sending the letter.

Full text of the letter can be found below and here.

 

July 18, 2017 

The Honorable Wilbur Ross

Secretary

U.S. Department of Commerce

1401 Constitution Ave NW

Washington, DC 20230

Dear Secretary Ross,

We are concerned that a recently issued Federal Register Notice regarding your review of National Marine Sanctuaries and Marine National Monuments designated or expanded since April 28, 2007 provides very little opportunity for public engagement. As members of Congress representing states, territories, and districts that may be affected by the findings of this retrospective review, we want to ensure that our constituents are given a reasonable opportunity to provide comment.

According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, national marine sanctuaries generate $8 billion and support over 70,000 jobs in coastal communities from activities like commercial fishing, research, recreation and tourism. Protecting and preserving these treasured resources drives the local economies in many of these communities, and residents should have sufficient time to provide input and voice concerns about possible changes resulting from this review.

As called for by Executive Order 13795, the review requests public comments on a broad scope of topics related to the expansions or designations of eleven National Marine Sanctuaries and Marine National Monuments across the country over the last ten years. It takes time and thought to respond effectively to this request to review a number of federal actions spanning a decade and impacting hundreds of millions of acres.

While we recognize that the terms of the Executive Order require that the Department report to the White House by October 25, 2017, meaningful public participation will require a comment period longer than thirty days. Furthermore, the Order specifically requests comment on the adequacy of Federal, State, and tribal consultations conducted prior to the eleven designations or expansions.  Extending the comment period would give these same entities a better opportunity to provide critical input as part of this review. Public input and community engagement are hallmarks of the National Marine Sanctuaries program, and such a short public comment period is inconsistent with the processes that created and expanded the affected sanctuaries. We strongly urge you to extend the public comment period to at least ninety days.