Letter to the Hon. Wilbur Ross, Secretary of Commerce - Possible Rollback of Monterey Bay, Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary
Dear Secretary Ross,
We are concerned that a recently issued Federal Register Notice regarding your review of National Marine Sanctuaries and Marine National Monuments designated or expanded since April 28, 2007 provides very little opportunity for public engagement. As members of Congress representing states, territories, and districts that may be affected by the findings of this retrospective review, we want to ensure that our constituents are given a reasonable opportunity to provide comment.
According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, national marine sanctuaries generate $8 billion and support over 70,000 jobs in coastal communities from activities like commercial fishing, research, recreation and tourism. Protecting and preserving these treasured resources drives the local economies in many of these communities, and residents should have sufficient time to provide input and voice concerns about possible changes resulting from this review.
As called for by Executive Order 13795, the review requests public comments on a broad scope of topics related to the expansions or designations of eleven National Marine Sanctuaries and Marine National Monuments across the country over the last ten years. It takes time and thought to respond effectively to this request to review a number of federal actions spanning a decade and impacting hundreds of millions of acres.
While we recognize that the terms of the Executive Order require that the Department report to the White House by October 25, 2017, meaningful public participation will require a comment period longer than thirty days. Furthermore, the Order specifically requests comment on the adequacy of Federal, State, and tribal consultations conducted prior to the eleven designations or expansions. Extending the comment period would give these same entities a better opportunity to provide critical input as part of this review. Public input and community engagement are hallmarks of the National Marine Sanctuaries program, and such a short public comment period is inconsistent with the processes that created and expanded the affected sanctuaries. We strongly urge you to extend the public comment period to at least ninety days.