Yesterday, NOAA unveiled a significant proposal from the Biden-Harris Administration: the establishment of the "Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary" along the coastal waters of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties in central California. This groundbreaking project would mark the first time that an indigenous community, specifically the Chumash, would take the helm of a national marine sanctuary.
This visionary campaign not only advocates for Chumash leadership in the sanctuary but also strives to conserve and rehabilitate 30% of U.S. lands and waters by the year 2030. This goal has been a prominent part of the Biden-Harris Administration's climate and conservation agenda since its inception.
According to NOAA, the proposed sanctuary encompasses an impressive 5,617 square miles, stretching along 134 miles of picturesque coastline. This expansive region includes significant landmarks from Hazard Canyon Reef to an area just south of Dos Pueblos Canyon, even incorporating a historically significant Chumash site. The objectives within this sanctuary are both clear and extensive: preserving ecosystems, and protecting the archaeological and cultural sites. These encompass rocky intertidal zones, underwater canyons, and thriving cold-water marine ecosystems. Furthermore, the proposal outlines an ambition to create "ecological connectivity" and establish protected corridors for fish and wildlife.
Crucially, cooperation stands as the linchpin of this initiative, underpinning its very framework with a collaborative approach that includes tribal and indigenous management.
The window for public engagement remains open until October 25, 2023. The organizers will conduct public meetings to facilitate discussions on this topic. They anticipate making a final decision regarding the sanctuary designation in mid-2024.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), under the U.S. Department of Commerce, has a well-defined mission encompassing the understanding and prediction of climate, weather, ocean, and coastal changes. They strive to share this knowledge with others while conserving and managing coastal and marine ecosystems and resources.