Expanding the Protection of Our Marine Sanctuaries

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Public ownership and federal protection of America’s natural and historical treasures are essential elements of our nation’s identity and its heritage. Recent polling shows that protecting public spaces for future generations enjoys significant bipartisan support, and special designation and public ownership of these areas have been called one of America’s “best ideas.” Yet even though America’s ocean waters span a larger area than the combined total of all 50 U.S. states, protection of our natural and historical treasures has largely been confined to spaces on land.

Fortunately, in an action linked to President Barack Obama’s 2010 National Ocean Policy, his administration is seeking to reactivate a long-dormant process for identifying and designating new National Marine Sanctuaries—federally protected areas within U.S. ocean waters and Great Lakes waters that harbor special natural, historical, or cultural resources. A new proposed rule would allow public nominations for sites to be designated as “Sanctuaries,” thereby putting the federal government to work for coastal communities and conferring better protection upon our nation’s most-special offshore places.

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