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U.S. Department of Commerce needs to come clean about national marine sanctuaries

Yesterday was the deadline for its study about reducing size or relaxing restrictions on our pristine water habitat.

Sacramento, Calif. – Representatives of Audubon California today called on U.S. Commerce Department Secretary Wilbur Ross to make public his recommendations to the Trump Administration concerning potential reductions to national marine sanctuaries and/or relaxed restrictions on oil drilling for national marine sanctuaries off the coast of California. Although President Trump gave a deadline of yesterday for the report, and news reports indicate that it was in fact delivered to the White House, the document has not been made public.

“President Trump in the past has been very clear about his intention to reopen the California coast to offshore oil drilling and other destructive uses, so the administration needs to come clean about what’s in this report,” said Michael Lynes, Audubon California’s director of public policy. “Given that one of the ostensible reasons for the Commerce Department’s review was to ensure transparency in the designation of these sanctuaries, it’s interesting that the administration is being so secretive now.”

President Trump in April of this year signed an executive order calling for a Commerce Department review of all marine sanctuaries designated or expanded in the last ten years. In that order, he expressed his desire to see these areas opened to oil drilling, mining, and other activities. He gave the Commerce Department 180 days to return with recommendations about reductions or changes to the marine sanctuaries.

The controversy over marine sanctuaries is particularly important for California, as this state hosts four of them. The embattled sanctuaries off the California coast include Channel Islands, Monterey Bay, the Greater Farallones and Cordell Bank. These sanctuaries are essential for the survival of species such as the Brown Pelican, Ashy Storm-petrel, Black-footed Albatross, Sooty Shearwater, and dozens of others. Marine birds are among our most threatened, and the human activities described by Trump in his executive order would further imperil them.

Audubon activists joined with nearly 100,000 others calling for no changes to the country’s national marine sanctuaries.

“Californian’s have said time and time again that they don’t want any new oil drilling off their coast, and they especially don’t want it in those places that are particularly important for ecological and economic reasons,” added Lynes. “It’s an outrage that these reviews were ever conducted, even more so that the results are being hidden from the public.”

If the administration keeps the Commerce Department recommendations under wraps, it will mirror what took place with an earlier review of national monuments conducted by the Department of Interior. Although portions of that report were leaked to the media, the document itself has never been made public.

These places also provide direct support to California’s economy. A multitude of jobs rely on expenditures by visitors from around the globe who come to enjoy these protected coastal areas for boating, recreational fishing, and wildlife viewing.

About Audubon California 

Audubon California is building a better future for California by bringing people together to appreciate, enjoy and protect our spectacular outdoor treasures. With more than 350,000 members and supporters in California and an affiliated 48 local Audubon chapters, Audubon California is a field program of the National Audubon Society.

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