On May 6, 2021, the Biden administration launched its “America the Beautiful” initiative, an effort to “conserve and restore” 30 percent of our country’s lands and waters – much like California has committed to protecting 30 percent of the state’s lands and waters by 2030. Like any good program, they plan to have a way to measure progress, and that’s where the proposed American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas (Atlas) comes in. The Atlas will be a tool that provides information for Americans about the lands and waters that are conserved or restored.
Wednesday was the second of several listening sessions that are part of a public comment period on the initiative. Specifically, the administration is asking for feedback about the Atlas and how it can serve as a useful tool for the public.
Below is the 90-second (capped) public comment that I delivered on the need to follow California’s lead to protect more of our oceans.
My name is Meghan Hurley and I’m an ocean conservation associate with Environment California
California’s coast and ocean are a vital part of the state’s identity. They hold the mystery, beauty and wildness that makes California so special. They are home to remarkable biodiversity, including sea otters and their kelp forest homes, coral reefs and the small life within them, and staggeringly large whales. That’s why California has led the U.S. efforts to protect ocean places.
Atlas should reflect the work California has done to protect the ocean by distinguishing between different levels of protection in line with the MPA Guide categories. Highly to fully protected areas are scientifically proven to support significantly more ocean life, and benefit the climate far more, than lightly protected areas.
The science also shows that we need to protect one third of the ocean in these highly- to fully protected areas to allow ocean life to recover and thrive. This should include more areas off of California’s coast, home to some of the most biodiverse ocean areas in the world.
We need these protections so generations of Californians can continue to enjoy the beauty and soothing influence of our oceans. We need highly to fully protected ocean places, for our own sake and for the sake of the life that inhabits that watery world.