“President Joe Biden’s laudable Jan. 27 executive order, “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad,” called for (among other things) conserving 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030. However, the administration’s “Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful” plan released last month calls solely for “voluntary, local conservation efforts” and falls far short on ocean protection.
In response, a large group of noted U.S. scientists sent a letter this month to the president urging him to “go big” on ocean protection as part of the “30×30” initiative. The core ask of the letter is that, in order for the administration to reach its 30% goal for ocean protection, it must establish strongly protected Marine National Monuments in large federal ocean ecosystems (3-200 miles offshore) in Alaskan and other federal continental shelf waters. In Alaska, while most federal lands enjoy permanent protection (parks, refuges, monuments, etc.), no federal offshore waters receive comparable protective status, despite comprising half of the nation’s entire shoreline and three-fourths of its total continental shelf.
Rick Steiner is a marine conservation biologist in Anchorage, Alaska. A former marine conservation professor at University of Alaska and former Alaska commercial fisherman, Steiner is founder and director of the nonprofit Oasis Earth, and member of the board of advisors for The Ocean Foundation and the Board of Directors of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.“