Expanded drilling, marine sanctuary restrictions could endanger national parks.
WASHINGTON – President Trump today signed an executive order that could vastly expand offshore oil and natural gas drilling, threatening coastal national parks and jeopardizing the future of marine sanctuaries critical to the health of our parks.
The order calls on the Department of the Interior to revise or initiate a new five-year plan to consider access to areas previously closed to oil and gas drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf, including in the Mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic near coastal parks like Cape Hatteras National Seashore. It also calls on the Department of Commerce to refrain from designating or expanding any National Marine Sanctuary until it is evaluated for energy resource potential, and to review any marine sanctuaries or monuments established over the last 10 years.
The order follows the administration’s executive order earlier this week directing the Department of the Interior to conduct a review of national monuments designated by the Antiquities Act, going as far back as 1996, to recommend potential changes.
Below is a statement by Mark Wenzler, Senior Vice President at the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA):
“Healthy coastal parks depend on the protection of offshore waters. The national parks that line our coasts and sanctuaries that span our oceans provide essential safeguards for our coastal parks, habitat for wildlife and recreation opportunities that generate billions of dollars in revenues for coastal communities.
“Today’s executive order jeopardizes the long-term future of these parks and marine sanctuaries, opening the door to potential oil spills that could do irrevocable damage to our parks, their resources and the economies they support.
“The restrictions on establishing or expanding new marine sanctuaries, coming on the heels of the president’s executive order on national monuments, is part of a disturbing trend by the administration questioning whether the protection of our natural resources should be a national priority. But these places belong to the American people who expect the administration to protect them.”
The protection of marine treasures through our national parks and sanctuaries helps to preserve biodiversity, protect endangered wildlife such as sea turtles and whales, ensure the availability of educational and research opportunities, build resilience against the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification, and strengthen the deeply embedded connections between our communities and the oceans.
Overall, there are 88 coastal parks in the National Park System that cover more than 11,000 miles of shoreline and 2.5 million acres of oceans and Great Lakes’ waters. That represents approximately 10 percent of all U.S. shorelines as diverse as lakeshores, kelp forests, glaciers, wetlands, beaches, estuaries, and coral reef areas. These parks attract more than 88 million visitors annually and generate more than $4.8 billion in economic benefits to local economies.
The National Marine Sanctuaries system helps buffer our coastal parks and conserve some of our country’s most prized underwater resources, including natural, cultural, and historic treasures. The sanctuaries protect key habitat for millions of species, preserve our maritime heritage (including over 300 shipwrecks), and provide recreational and economic opportunities for both present and future generations. Millions of visitors frequent the sanctuaries each year and they generate approximately $8 billion annually to local economies.
One example of parks depending on a sanctuary is in South Florida at Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS). The health of the FKNMS is directly linked to the health of adjacent protected areas, including Biscayne, Everglades, and Dry Tortugas National Parks. Although under different management jurisdictions, these areas are part of the same greater ecosystem.
About National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, the nonpartisan has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than 1.2 million supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.
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