Environmentalists Win Lawsuit Protecting Ocean Monuments

January 4, 2020 by Tom Ramstack
FILE - This undated file photo released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows deep-sea spiral coral during a dive on the New England Seamount chain in the North Atlantic Ocean. A federal appeals court on Friday, Dec. 27, 2019, upheld former President Barack Obama's designation of the federally protected conservation area in the Atlantic, a move that commercial fishermen oppose. (NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research via AP, File)

WASHINGTON – Environmentalists won an appeals court ruling in Washington, D.C. last week protecting ocean marine national monuments.

Marine national monuments refer to offshore underwater areas intended to protect coral reefs or wildlife. There are five of them in U.S. territorial waters.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruling came in a lawsuit filed by commercial fishing industry groups.

They were challenging President Obama’s designation of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument off the coast of New England. They said the national monument designation means they can no longer fish in the roughly 5,000 square miles of ocean water, thereby cutting into their livelihoods.

The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument consists of three underwater canyons, four extinct undersea volcanoes called seamounts and the neighboring ecosystems.

It lies within the 200 miles of the U.S. mainland classified since 1983 as the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone. The United States claims exclusive rights to develop, exploit and protect natural resources within the zone.

Obama invoked authority for the national monument protection under the Antiquities Act of 1906. The law gives the president authority to create national monuments from federal lands to protect significant natural, cultural or scientific features.

The fishermen’s lawsuit says offshore, underwater areas are not “federal lands” envisioned under the Antiquities Act.

They also said the president incorrectly claimed authority under the Antiquities Act when the National Marine Sanctuaries Act is the proper legislation for protecting offshore sites. Improperly invoking the Antiquities Act renders the Sanctuaries Act ineffective and redundant, the lawsuit says.

The appellate court disagreed, dismissing the fishing industry’s lawsuit.

“The Supreme Court has consistently held that the Antiquities Act reaches submerged lands and waters associated with them,” the court’s ruling said.

The Antiquities Act uses different definitions and procedures for protecting underwater sites than the Sanctuaries Act, the court said, adding, the site’s location within the Exclusive Economic Zone leaves no doubt the U.S. government has authority over it.

“The federal government’s unrivaled authority under both international and domestic law establishes that it ‘control[s]’ the [Exclusive Economic Zone] for purposes of the [Antiquities] Act,” the ruling said.

Environmentalists say the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts needs to be protected for its importance as a biodiversity hotspot, habitat for numerous rare and endangered species and a valuable scientific and historical site.

“Preserving ocean areas like this one will be absolutely key to ensuring the resilience of our oceans in a changing climate,” said Kate Desormeau, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The case is Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association v. Dept. of Commerce, et al, U.S. Ct.App. – D.C., No. 18-5353, Dec. 27, 2019.

In The News

Health

Voting

Environment

Researchers Turn Used Coffee Grounds Into Biodegradable Plastic
Science
Researchers Turn Used Coffee Grounds Into Biodegradable Plastic
May 11, 2021
by Anthropocene

This article is by Prachi Patel and was originally published by Anthropocene magazine. The world drinks a whole lot of coffee. And in the process produces over six million tons of coffee grounds, according to the International Coffee Organization. And much of that ends up in... Read More

Nitrate in Drinking Water May Increase Odds of Preterm Birth
Health
Nitrate in Drinking Water May Increase Odds of Preterm Birth
May 11, 2021
by Alexa Hornbeck

A recent study from Stanford University indicates that nitrate in drinking water is associated with increased odds of spontaneous preterm birth.  “One single study does not conclusively prove that nitrate exposure causes preterm birth, but it is a clear indication that we should continue to investigate... Read More

USDA to Award $45 Million in Grants for Wood Products, Forest Conservation
Agriculture
USDA to Award $45 Million in Grants for Wood Products, Forest Conservation
May 10, 2021
by Reece Nations

WASHINGTON — The Department of Agriculture is funding over $15 million in grant proposals directed at developing and expanding “the use of wood products, strengthening emerging wood energy markets and protecting community forests.” The grants will support 60 individual projects covering an array of initiatives, including... Read More

Murphy, Mast in Bipartisan Push to Protect Florida Manatees, Other Marine Mammals
Environment
Murphy, Mast in Bipartisan Push to Protect Florida Manatees, Other Marine Mammals
May 7, 2021
by TWN Staff

WASHINGTON - Reps. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., and Brian Mast, R-Fla., are urging their colleagues to support bipartisan legislation to protect marine mammals like manatees, dolphins, seals, and whales.  The Marine Mammal Research and Response Act increases funding for two initiatives -- the Prescott Marine Mammal Rescue Assistance Grant... Read More

Women in the Rockies Use Horses for Healing
Mental Health
Women in the Rockies Use Horses for Healing
May 5, 2021
by Alexa Hornbeck

About 6 miles outside of a tiny town called Granby, Colo.,  is a little ranching community called C Lazy U Ranch nestled 8,000 feet high aside the cusp of the towering Rocky Mountains.  Entering the ranch is a dusty dirt road that leads to a vista... Read More

Nature at its Craziest: Trillions of Cicadas About to Emerge
Environment
Nature at its Craziest: Trillions of Cicadas About to Emerge

COLUMBIA, Md. (AP) — Sifting through a shovel load of dirt in a suburban backyard, Michael Raupp and Paula Shrewsbury find their quarry: a cicada nymph.  And then another. And another. And four more.  In maybe a third of a square foot of dirt, the University... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top