It has long been rumored that conservation groups were hoping to have the President use the Antiquities Act to designate Tanner and Cortes banks as National Marine Monuments. Finally, this rumor has been put on paper and its reach is far more than just the two areas mentioned above. The areas in grey below are those being proposed for Monument designation.
The full text of “The Case for Protecting California’s Seamounts, Ridges and Banks” is available here – Proposal to designate national monument.
Unlike the substantial public process that accompanies creation of a National Marine Sanctuary, designation of an area as a National Marine Monument is done outside the public eye – under the Antiquities Act. The Antiquities Act (54 USC §320301 et seq) empowers the President to, “in the President’s discretion, declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated on land owned or controlled by the Federal Government to be national monuments.” In a letter to the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the Fisheries Survival Fund stated it well:
“A monument designation, with its unilateral implementation and opaque process, is the exact opposite of the fisheries management process in which we participate,” the letter states. “Public areas and public resources should be managed in an open and transparent manner, not an imperial stroke of the pen.” See – http://www.savingseafood.org/news/washington/atlantic-sea-scallop-group-opposes-atlantic-marine-monument-says-contradicts-presidents-order/
Fishing interests and the communities which rely upon them are dealing with a similar proposal off the East Coast. There a 35,000 square mile stretch of ocean is being considered for Monument designation. On the East Coast, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission with the backing of major fishing groups and the most valuable fishing port in the U.S. (New Bedford, Mass) has written the President and “urged the President and the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) for transparency and a robust opportunity for public input as the Administration considers designating a National Monument through its authority under the Antiquities Act.” See – http://www.savingseafood.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/pr14MarineMonuments.pdf.
We have been led to believe that many of California’s Congressional Delegation oppose this proposal. We are working with our clients and other interested parties to try and ensure this proposal receives the attention it deserves. Backroom deals and catering to the interests of a few is no way to go about closing vast areas off the California Coast. The proposal’s authors and backers should have their ideas and claims vetted in a process that is fully public so that an informed decision can be made.