Brenda Mallory, Chair, Council on Environmental Quality
Gina Raimondo, Secretary, U.S. Department of Commerce
Deb Haaland, Secretary, U.S. Department of the Interior
Dear Chair Mallory, Secretary Raimondo, and Secretary Haaland:
We applaud the Administration initiating the designation process of the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary and write to express our strong support to include this national treasure within the National Marine Sanctuary System.
The proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary (NMS) would protect sacred Chumash sites, hotspots of biodiversity, and productive marine habitats along the California coast. It includes feeding grounds for numerous species of whales and dolphins, sea otter populations, kelp forests, and is home to vital commercial and recreational fisheries. And in the face of climate change, warming oceans, losses in marine biodiversity, and impacts to communities, culture, traditions, and economies, national marine sanctuaries are critically important management tools to conserve marine biodiversity as well as safeguard the local economies and people that depend on a healthy ocean ecosystem.
These waters are essential to the heritage of the Chumash, one of the few ocean-going bands among the First People of the Pacific Coast. The island and marine ecosystems co-evolved with the Chumash and their culture and traditions that continue on today. Their long standing historical relationships with land and sea run deep, producing wellsprings of traditional ecological knowledge and wisdom. The more holistic perspective on stewardship that this knowledge offers is invaluable for equitable, effective, community-led management and collaborative conservation moving forward. The sanctuary designation would continue to strengthen indigenous perspectives and cultural values in ocean conservation by supporting locally led and locally designed conservation efforts and providing support for Tribal nation priorities.
The waters off the Central Coast of California are some of the most biologically diverse and ecologically productive regions in the world. Fed by deepwater upwelling and ocean currents, the nutrient rich waters off San Luis Obispo and northern Santa Barbara Counties create an incredibly productive feeding ground that attracts a menagerie of marine wildlife. The proposed sanctuary contains a key transition zone that includes vital upwelling of great bioproductivity supporting kelp forests, wetlands, estuaries and rookeries. Onshore, the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes are the largest remaining dune system south of San Francisco and the second largest in California. These diverse habitats are crucial for vulnerable species such as the endangered western snowy plover and the threatened southern sea otter. They also constitute critical habitat for several culturally and ecologically important species including the Chinook salmon and the leatherback sea turtle. Sustaining these vulnerable populations requires maintaining ecosystem diversity through protection of this wide variety of representative and unique habitats present within Chumash Heritage NMS.
We support the addition of Chumash Heritage NMS to America’s National Marine Sanctuary System. The comprehensive, ecosystem-based approach to protection that sanctuary status brings will promote long term conservation of Chumash cultural resources, sanctuary waters, wildlife, and habitats. The sanctuary would also support the deep, long standing relationships coastal communities have with these waters.
We urge the Administration to designate Chumash Heritage NMS to allow current and future generations to enjoy, appreciate, and benefit from these underwater national treasures.