Restoring the protections of 3 national monuments rightly puts conservation before consumption
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President Joe Biden restored protection to three national monuments on Friday, including a marine monument off the coast of New England.
The move is a reversal of the policy of the Trump administration, which has reviewed more than two dozen monument designations and weakened protections and cut several of them to allow more oil and gas extraction, mining and grazing. Under former President Donald Trump, the Home Office shrunk two national monuments in Utah; Bear Ears and Grand Escalating Staircase. Both monuments contained sites of importance to the indigenous peoples of the region.
Additionally, following the Trump Era Review, commercial fishing has resumed in the Northeastern Canyons and Seamounts National Monument, a 5,000 square mile marine reserve – the first in The Atlantic Ocean. Former President Trump signed a proclamation opening the marine monument to commercial fishing during a July 2020 visit to Bangor, during his campaign for re-election.
A Trump-era review of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, which was created by then-President Barack Obama, in August 2016, left the monument near Patten intact.
With Friday’s announcement, the Biden administration restored the size and protections of both Utah monuments. It also resumed the ban on most commercial fisheries in the New England Marine Monument, although lobster and crab fishing is allowed there until September 15, 2023.
While land monuments and national parks are primarily concerned with the preservation of the important landscapes that people will visit, marine monuments are concerned with preservation and scientific research. With many fish stocks in low numbers, despite increasing fishing restrictions and rapidly warming oceans, it is more important than ever to understand what is going on underwater.
The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts monument contains three submarine canyons, one of them deeper than the Grand Canyon, and four undersea mountains that were volcanoes. It is home to diverse wildlife, including corals not found anywhere else. Scientists recently discovered that puffins use it as a wintering area.
The combination of the deep sea and high mountains provides a breeding and nursing ground for an array of marine life, including lobsters. As the oceans warm – the neighboring Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 99% of the world’s oceans – research in the monuments area can play an important role in shaping policies to combat change climate and overfishing.
The marine monument was created by executive order in 2016 by then-President Obama. Its creation met with opposition from commercial fishing interests, even though commercial fishing vessels caught less than 5 percent of their landings in areas within the monument.
A member of the Trump administration’s monument review team suggested removing this information from his assessment because it “undermines the argument that shutting down the commercial fishery is damaging.” This is one of several cases reported by the Washington Post in which the administration downplayed the value of monument protections while emphasizing the value of trees, oil, gas, minerals, fish. and other resources that could be extracted from it.
Utah’s canyons and seamounts and two historic and geographic landscapes deserved to be protected when former presidents designated them as national monuments and they remain so today.