The new administration is certainly bringing us plenty of immediate good news for the nation and the planet. And some of it is for the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. President Biden has signed an Executive Order that takes important actions for the environment and public health, including initiating a formal review of President Trump’s June 2020 order opening up the monument to industrial fishing. (We promptly challenged Trump’s move in federal court.)
The President’s “Executive Order on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis” sets out, in Section 1, a national policy committing, among other things, to “bolster resilience to the impacts of climate change,” and to “conserve,” “restore and expand” “our national treasures and monuments, places that secure our national memory.” The Order directs the Department of Interior, in consultation with the Department of Commerce, the Council on Environmental Quality and several other agencies, to conduct a review of the “boundaries and conditions” that Trump established in his order, and in his December 2017 orders drastically downsizing Bear Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in Utah. Within 60 days, the Interior Department must submit a report to the President summarizing the review, including recommendations for actions that would be appropriate to carry out the policy in Section 1 of the Order.
The 60-day review is a key first step for restoring full and permanent protections for Canyons and Seamounts and the Utah monuments. It is an important sign that the Biden Administration is committed to fulfilling the promises it made during the campaign to restore monument protections. I will be watching for new details about the monument review process, particularly with respect to any public involvement.
There is much at stake in this review: Just ten days ago, scientists from the New England Aquarium conducted their most recent aerial survey of marine mammal activity in the Canyons and Seamounts Monument. Similar to previous surveys, the scientists sighted almost 700 animals, including sperm whales, True’s beaked whales, and pilot whales, and huge pods of striped, bottlenose and common dolphins.
We need to work together—all of us—to protect to the fullest extent unique, biodiverse areas like these—not just for the protection of these amazing creatures, but as a defense against the climate crisis, a sanctuary for scientific inquiry, and the well-being and appreciation of future generations.