|On June 15, 2006 the President established the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument, protecting nearly 140,000 square miles of islands, atolls and the largest remote reef system in the world. The Interior Department, in close coordination with the Commerce Department and the State of Hawaii, is working to conserve and manage this pristine area.|
(WASHINGTON) — Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne today highlighted the progress in achieving the goals of the U.S. Ocean Action Plan signed two years ago by President Bush.
“President Bush gave us a mandate to conserve our oceans and their fisheries, and we have made great strides in fulfilling that mandate,” Kempthorne said at a news conference at the White House.
Kempthorne joined Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez, White House Council on Environmental Quality Chairman James L. Connaughton, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director Dr. John H. Marburger, III, and National Science Foundation Director. Dr. Arden Bement at the event.
On December 17, 2004, President Bush released the U.S. Ocean Action Plan and created a Cabinet-level Committee on Ocean Policy to accomplish 88 actions to strengthen and better coordinate to make our oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes cleaner, healthier and more productive. To date, the administration has accomplished 73 of the 88 actions and, in many cases, moved beyond the action plan to take additional steps to conserve the ocean and coastal environment.
The Interior Department plays a vital role in ocean conservation. Through the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Minerals Management Service, the department manages more than 35,000 miles of coastline, 169 island and coastal refuges, 3.6 million acres of coral reef ecosystems, 34 million acres in 74 coastal parks, and 1.8 billion underwater acres of outer continental shelf lands. In addition, through U.S. Geological Survey, the department conducts extensive scientific research on oceans as well as coastal mapping.
“The Interior Department manages resources from the Continental Divide to the Continental Shelf,” Kempthorne said. “Nearly a tenth of our overall 2007 budget request, or more than $900 million, in one way or another affects the health of our oceans.”
The Department of the Interior is working with federal, state, tribal and local governments, and the public to meet commitments in the plan. Interior’s accomplishments over the last two years include:
- Gulf of Mexico Alliance: Governors’ Action Plan for Healthy and Resilient Coasts. The U.S. Geological Survey has made significant contributions to research to restore and protect coastlines under the Governor’s Action Plan of the Gulf of Mexico Alliance. These include projects to improve water quality, restore coastal areas, and educate the public about Gulf Coast conservation. The agency will continue data collection and collaboration activities through 2008.
Meanwhile, the Minerals Management Service is continuing its involvement with the Governors’ Action Plan through administration of the Coastal Impact Assistance Program, a four-year Energy Policy Act requirement (2007-2010) that authorizes disbursement of $250 million from Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas revenues to producing states and local communities. The funds will be directed to projects such as coastal restoration and protection, mitigation of damage to wildlife, and mitigation of Outer Continental Shelf activities through onshore infrastructure projects.
- Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument: On June 15, 2006 the President established the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument, protecting nearly 140,000 square miles of islands, atolls and the largest remote reef system in the world. The department, in close coordination with the Commerce Department and the State of Hawaii, is working to conserve and manage this pristine area.
- Coral Reef Local Action Strategies: The department, as a co-chair of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force has worked with the members of its seven jurisdictions (Florida, Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands) to address key threats to coral reefs.
- Coordinate and Better Integrate the Existing Network of Marine Managed Areas. Marine Protected Areas, used as a management tool, provide an array of protection levels for resource conservation purposes to mitigate or buffer impacts caused by development, over-fishing, and natural events. The Federal Marine Protected Areas System Work Group, which includes the Parks Service and Fish and Wildlife Service, developed a framework to coordinate cooperation in research, habitat mapping, monitoring, education, and law enforcement in these areas.
- Dry Tortugas: In mid-November, Florida Governor Jeb Bush and his cabinet agreed to the final regulations for Dry Tortugas National Park that establishes a no-take marine reserve in the park while leaving more than half the park open to recreational fishing. The reserve, called a Research Natural Area, is 46 square nautical miles in size. The area will provide a sanctuary for species that have been affected by harvest or habitat degradation and foster scientific research.
- Ocean Park Stewardship Action Plan. The National Park Service Ocean Park Stewardship Action Plan is focusing the organizational and scientific capacities of the Park Service on conserving more than 3 million acres and 5,000 miles of coast in the National Park System. This is being done in close cooperation with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Geological Survey, coastal states and the public. Under the plan, the Park Service is advancing scientific understanding of ocean resources and addressing threats to resource health.
- Ocean and Coastal Research, Survey, and Mapping Activities. The Minerals Management Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and scientists from academia are collaborating to map and characterize deep-sea species and habitat in the Gulf of Mexico. Field work includes using deep-diving, remotely operated vehicles and manned submersibles.