On Monuments, President Obama’s Legacy is Strong – But Not Yet Complete

President Obama announced last week a massive expansion of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument off the coast of Hawaii, more than quadrupling the size of the existing monument (established in 2006 by George W. Bush). This designation created the world’s largest marine protected area!

Over the weekend, the New York Times editorialized in favor of this expansion and the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument designation, also announced last week, which will protect Maine’s pristine North Woods area. The editorial also called upon the president to continue to seek good candidates for monument designation throughout the tenure of his presidency.

We are so grateful for President Obama’s leadership in protecting important lands and for extending this protection to our oceans, which are increasingly at risk from the effects of climate change. And, we fervently agree with the New York Times: President Obama should not stop now.

These recent monument designations capped off a wonderful celebration of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, and are a tremendous gift to the nation and future generations. In Hawaii, this protection means that we’re strengthening our resilience to climate change, protecting astonishingly beautiful and rare marine life, and creating a living laboratory to allow scientists to study this area.

However, it remains true that not a single square mile of the Atlantic has this same level of protection. In the Atlantic, the endangered North Atlantic right whale struggles to rebound, with a population stagnating at around 500. Fragile, centuries-old coral formations are at risk from ever-increasing industrialization efforts. Areas with abundant and diverse marine life would ensure reliable feeding grounds for the struggling Atlantic Puffin population. The list goes on.

It’s time for President Obama to turn his sights to New England’s ocean treasures. The Coral Canyons and Seamounts, approximately 150 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, have been confirmed by leading marine scientists as scientifically worthy of permanent protection; the public, including business leaders, faith organizations, and others have joined in robust support; and recently, Senator Richard Blumenthal and other congressional leaders in Connecticut joined in outpouring of support and formally proposed the area as a Marine National Monument.

Now, it’s up to President Obama to extend his environmental legacy to the Atlantic Ocean. There are 140 days left in this administration. We hope one of them will bring another reason to celebrate progress and protection for our oceans.

More information about CLF’s efforts to permanently protect the Coral Canyons and Seamounts off the Atlantic Coast can be found here.

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