Improving Public Policy
In December, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration created the largest protected area in the U.S. waters of the Atlantic Ocean. More than 41,000 square miles of habitat for deep-water corals are now off limits to bottom trawling, dredging, and other destructive fishing methods.
Sunrise breaks across the Teton Range, the mountains that led to the creation of the Grand Teton National Park in 1929. (© Christian Science Monitor / Getty Images)
National Park Service Centennial Act Becomes Law
The National Park Service Centennial Act was signed into law on Dec. 16 and provides $35 million in new revenue for park programs; $25 million of it is prioritized for deferred maintenance needs. A public-private matching provision has the potential to generate $50 million annually to address the backlog of the maintenance needs as well. Since 2016, Pew’s campaign to restore America’s parks has worked to conserve the national parks’ natural and cultural assets by raising awareness, increasing maintenance funding, and obtaining policy reforms.
U.S. and Canada grant Arctic waters new protections
President Barack Obama signed an executive order on Dec. 9 safeguarding 113,000 square miles of the northern Bering Sea and the Bering Strait adjacent to the Chukchi Sea, an area Pew has worked to protect. The narrow body of water provides the only maritime route between the Pacific and Arctic oceans and serves as one of the world’s major marine migration corridors for bowhead whales, Pacific walrus, ringed and bearded seals, and millions of seabirds. On Dec. 20, President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced unprecedented safeguards from a potential oil spill in the Arctic. The U.S. designated the vast majority of its waters in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas as off limits to oil and gas leasing, and Canada placed a moratorium on new Arctic leases in federal waters, which will be reviewed every five years.
New marine protected area created in Canada’s Arctic
On Nov. 16, Canada announced creation of the Anguniaqvia Niqiqyuam protected area, a 926-square-mile region of the Arctic’s Darnley Bay in the Northwest Territories’ Beaufort Sea. The designation came after more than three years of collaboration with community members and federal officials to protect the area against any activity that disturbs, damages, or destroys living marine organisms or habitat. Pew research on beluga whales and other marine mammals there helped make the case for the protected status.
NOAA announces protections for deep-sea canyons in mid-Atlantic U.S.
In December, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration created the largest protected area in the U.S. waters of the Atlantic Ocean. More than 41,000 square miles of habitat for deep-water corals are now off limits to bottom trawling, dredging, and other destructive fishing methods. The area, which is 12 times the size of Yellowstone National Park, is located about 70 miles off of the mid-Atlantic coast. Pew helped secure the final decision by informing decision-makers with scientific analyses and expert testimony; assisting in defining the area’s boundaries through geographic information system mapping; and generating more than 100,000 public comments in favor of the conservation proposal. With this new measure in place, deep-sea corals are now protected along the eastern seaboard, from Florida to New York.
Army Corps policy advances living shorelines
In a major step toward better protecting coastlines, estuaries, and lakeshores, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved a new policy in January that streamlines procedures for using nature-based solutions to protect property and guard against habitat loss and coastal erosion. Typically consisting of native elements such as vegetation, oyster reefs, or rock sills, these “living shoreline” projects have proved effective in providing protections compared with hard infrastructure, which covers 14 percent of the nation’s tidal shoreline. The Corps’ new procedure will encourage property owners to embrace living shorelines, the environmentally preferred method for erosion control. Pew’s research and advocacy efforts, along with bipartisan support from Congress and local representatives from across the U.S., helped ensure the Corps finalized the permit.
Catch data in Gulf will be reported electronically
In February, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council approved a new rule mandating that charter-for-hire fleets report their catch data via electronic logbooks, rather than paper or phone surveys. The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council voted in favor of a similar requirement in December. Together, these actions are a critical step toward both modernizing fisheries data collection across 430,000 square miles of ocean in the southeast United States, and completing the U.S. fisheries and marine ecosystem project’s work to improve accountability in the recreational fishing community. This data will also support work to reduce bycatch—when fishermen reel in species they weren’t actively seeking. Pew submitted detailed recommendations on the plans’ design and conducted outreach to fishing captains to demonstrate broad support for these amendments.
No more mineral leasing and development on the Klamath Mountains’ public land
The Bureau of Land Management signed a public land order in January that prevents mineral leasing and development on 101,000 acres in the Klamath Mountains near the Kalmiopsis Wilderness in southwest Oregon. Pew has worked with legislators for nearly five years on several bills aimed at conserving lands within the Kalmiopsis region, which has one of the highest concentrations of rare and endemic plants in North America and one of the last wild salmon strongholds in the continental United States.