LePage Stands on the Wrong Side of History with Monument Opposition

Sean Mahoney | @SeanCLF

The Obama Administration is currently considering a proposal to permanently protect key areas of New England’s ocean as the first Marine National Monuments in the Atlantic, including three deep sea canyons and four sea mountains at the southern edge of Georges Bank. CLF is continuing to urge the administration to include the area between Cashes Ledge and Fippinies Ledge (a roughly 500-square-mile area 80 miles off the coast of Maine) in its monument designation.

As my colleague Peter Shelley explains here, Cashes Ledge and the coral canyons and seamounts are unique ecosystems that are critical “living laboratories” for understanding the impacts of climate change on our ocean resources – from warming waters to the increasing acidification of our ocean waters. Permanently protecting the Cashes Ledge Closed Area may also provide one of the last best chances for recovery of overfished species such as Atlantic cod, because the area would become a refuge for highly productive large, older female cod.

Kelp Forest and Cod at Cashes Ledge; 70-miles off the coast of Maine. Photo by Brian Skerry

Kelp Forest and Cod at Cashes Ledge, 80 miles off the coast of Maine. Photo by Brian Skerry

This is a tremendous opportunity to take meaningful action today that will ensure our children and grandchildren will have at least some vestige of our historical New England ocean to work in and experience. Here at CLF, we’re working hard with our partners to explain the nature and scope of what permanent protection would mean through meetings with federal, state, and local leaders, with commercial fishermen and marine businesses, with recreational fishermen, and with our friends and allies in the nonprofit world.

The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Just last week, at a public event held at the New England Aquarium in Boston, more than 600 people turned out in support of permanent protection of these special places. We’ve been hearing that same kind of support throughout Maine, from Bar Harbor to Kittery.

Disappointing but not surprising has been the response from Maine’s illustrious Governor LePage. While Maine’s Congressional delegation continues to thoughtfully evaluate the proposals for permanent protection, fightin’ Paul LePage came out swinging early – before even knowing the details of the marine monument proposal. Not only does he oppose the idea of permanently protecting the Cashes Ledge area, he opposes the whole idea of National Monuments period. Not surprisingly, this puts the Governor at odds with every President since Teddy Roosevelt, who wrote the Antiquities Act and then invoked the power granted to the President under the Act to permanently protect the Grand Canyon from mining in 1908. Indeed, a century later, the first large Marine National Monuments were established in the Pacific Ocean by George W. Bush.

The Governor’s opposition is not surprising given how fast and loose he has played with the Land for Maine’s Future bond money. The good new is that, by now, many people realize that the sound and fury from Augusta doesn’t signify much. In a recent poll conducted by Maine Biz, when people were asked if they supported the Governor’s opposition to the marine monument idea for Cashes Ledge, more than 2 to 1 they said they did not.

As CLF has been conducting our outreach, we’re finding that the more people understand the fact of this marine monument proposal – including the value of Cashes Ledge as marine habitat for critical species such as cod, halibut, and endangered North Atlantic right whales; its significance as home to the largest coldwater kelp forest on the Eastern seaboard; the lack of any significant commercial activity there for more than a decade; and the potential Cashes Ledge holds in helping us to understand and adapt to the impacts climate change will have on our marine resources – the more they support it.

We hope you will join this rising chorus and help make history by signing our petition in support of the Atlantic’s first marine national monuments. We only have 7 days to make our voices heard before the official public commenting period for this proposal closes. Please don’t wait. Sign our petition today.

Thank you for being a part of history in the making.

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