President Bush seems to have decided that he stands a better chance of history remembering him favorably for marine conservation rather than nation-building in Iraq or human rights in Guantanamo Bay. First he designated the world’s largest marine protected area, the PapahÄnaumokuÄkea Marine National Monumentâ€“formerly the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument (which by the way was the result of a process which predates the Bush administration and began under legislation passed by Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton.)
On Tuesday, May 8, 2007, the administration continued to find ways of salvaging its reputation and delivered (to my delight) proposed legislation to Congress calling for greater protection for the nationâ€™s coral reefs. The bill, the Coral Reef Ecosystem Conservation Amendment Act of 2007, reauthorizes the Coral Reef Conservation Act of 2000 and adds greater protections for coral reefs while enhancing marine debris removal and increasing the governmentâ€™s ability to work through cooperative partnerships. Pending reauthorization by Congress, the act will provide strong protection for all of the US state and territory shallow-water coral reef ecosystems and build a wider foundation for the federal government’s coral reef conservation activities.
The Administration’s proposal specifically addresses the following issues:
Adds new areas of emphasis to the National Program and Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP) to address new and emerging threats to coral reef ecosystems;
Provides for consistent guidelines for maintaining environmental data, products, and information;
Augments authorities to allow for stronger partnerships between the federal government and its partners. These partners include state governments, who are responsible for managing much of the nation’s coral reef habitat;
Provides a suite of tools to facilitate response to and restoration of injury to coral reefs. With this proposal, the federal government would be able to conduct emergency response activities to address coral damage, carry-out long-term restoration on impacted coral reefs, and hold responsible parties liable for injury to coral resources;
Provides for direct removal of marine debris by the federal government. Marine debris is a chronic and long-term threat to the health and stability of US states and territories shallow-water coral reefs; and
Enhances the Department of the Interior’s ability to provide technical assistance to states and territories and carry out their research and management objectives.
This Act is a big deal for US coral reef conservation. Why? If reauthorized it provides regulatory teeth to stop damaging activitiesâ€“like ship groundingsâ€“and ensures investigation and funds for restoration when they do. The act also authorizes more granting authority for coral reef conservation projects, education, and outreach.
But for reauthorization to be successful, it requires Congressional approval. That means you can help by writing to your US Representative and US Senator urging them to reauthorize this bill. While you’re welcome to write your own endorsement, feel free to cut and paste from the handy boilerplate text below:
Dear Representative or Senator,
I am urging you to support H.R. 1205, the Coral Reef Conservation Amendments Act of 2007, which reauthorizes the Coral Reef Conservation Act of 2000. This reauthorization strengthens the protection and restoration of our nation’s coral reefs by providing expanded authorities to the Secretary of Commerce and the Secretary of the Interior.
Coral reefs are vital to ocean ecosystems and promote biodiversity not only along the reefs themselves, but to the wider ocean basins. Healthy reefs provide protection for harbors and beaches from heavy waves caused by intense coastal storms. Healthy reefs and their associated mangrove forests have also proven to reduce coastal damage from devastating tsunamis. Many coastal communities in US states and territories rely upon healthy local coral reefs for their primary source of protein. And science has validated that the oceanâ€™s biodiversity may depend on healthy coral reefs. Unfortunately, many US state and territory reefs today are declining due to human induced or exacerbated causes.
Please support authorization of H.R. 1205. By supporting this legislation, coral reef ecosystems will not only continue to be protected, but increased mechanisms for accountability and enforcement will be ensured.
Your name and address here