President Barack Obama’s office has announced that it is creating two new marine sanctuaries in the United States.
These are the first new reserve areas in the U.S. in 15 years!
The administration is declaring an 875-square-mile area of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin protected, as well as a 14-square-mile area of the tidal Potomac River in Maryland.
In a video announcement to the international “Our Ocean” summit Obama said, “These actions will protect waters of historic and national importance, and in the coming months I will look for opportunities to protect even more of our waters.” The summit is taking place this week in Chile.
The area of Lake Michigan, put up for sanctuary status by the governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, is an area that “encompasses a key portion of an early transportation corridor that was critical to the expansion of the United States.”
Like much of the Great Lakes, Lake Michigan is the site of a number of recorded shipwrecks, and is known for both its environmental and archaeological value. This will be the first sanctuary in Lake Michigan.
The Great Lakes make up the world’s largest joining bodies of fresh water. The watershed includes some of North America’s most fascinating wildlife such as the gray wolf, Canada lynx, moose and bald eagle. The lakes themselves are home to numerous fish, including perch, lake whitefish, walleye, muskellunge and trout. Millions of migratory birds pass through the region during their spring and fall migrations. The delicate marine ecosystems are thrown off balance by the entry of chemicals and nutrients from the surrounding towns, as well as invasive species.
I was fortunate to explore the region a few years ago, and found it beautiful and charming. Each lake has its own diverse ecological makeup and appeal. Lake Michigan is like an ocean itself, massive, expansive, and tidal.
The second area in the Potomac River in Maryland, known as Mallows Bay, also has merit in maritime history—from the Revolutionary War to World War I. It is home to vast numbers of shipwrecks and is also recognized for its unique ecosystem. It is home to the largest shipwreck fleet in the Western Hemisphere.
Last year the administration announced a 400,000 square mile expansion of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, which critics decried as not doing enough, and these will be the first new reserves since then. This is the world’s largest marine sanctuary. The seven atolls and islands included within this area are farther from human population centers than any other U.S. area. They represent one of the last untouched frontiers and havens for wildlife in the world. They are home to the most widespread collection of coral, seabirds, and shorebirds that are protected on the planet.
Just last month New Zealand announced its intentions to preserve a huge area off its northern shores consisting of volcanoes, atolls and islands.
Chile also announced Monday that it will be creating a massive new protected area, the Nazca-Desventuradas Marine Park. The 297,518-square-kilometer region, will be the largest in the Americas.
The degrees of protection vary based on the different areas. Some completely ban any human activity within them, while others prohibit mining, drilling, fishing while still allowing non-motorized recreation.
It’s my belief that we need to do anything we can to protect our environment, especially our oceans, from the grasping hands of the world that would despoil all corners of the Earth for profit. We treat our oceans like the world’s sewer.
Personally I applaud the current administration for its moves in this arena. Could it do more? Of course. We can always be doing more for our world, individually and collectively—but in this age of minimalist actions I appreciate and applaud any measures taken by the powers in charge.
Author: Lindsay Carricarte
Editor: Travis May
Image: Kevin Dooley/Flickr