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Environmentalists applaud effort to designate Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary

Proposed Chumash Heritage Marine Sanctuary now in designation stage

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - During the pandemic many people enjoyed beaches and fishing off the coast.

Those are some of the reasons environmentalists are applauding an effort to create a Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary.

It would protect 140 mile area of coastline between Cambria and Santa Barbara from further oil and gas drilling.

Rep. Salud Carbajal said the the effort to recognize the waters for their cultural, economic and ecologial significance can now move to the designation phase.

Sean Anderson, Ph.D, the Chair of Environmental Science & Resource Management Program at California State University Channel Islands said the announcement comes at an opportune time. Anderson called it "fantastic."

"Fantastic that we are including the Chumash people in this from the get-go, secondly, we all recognize we need more protected areas across the planet," he said.

It also comes on the heels of an Orange County oil spill that is still being cleaned up.

"We have all seen during the pandemic the true value of well-functioning healthy coastlines and public access to healthy coastlines. So many people took refuge from this pandemic at the coast, on the water on the edge of the state of California and the more we can do to offer those opportunities to more generations and to protect them for future generations is only a good thing," said Anderson.

It's an emotional day for Violet Sage Walker. She is the daughter of the late applicant and the Chairwoman of the Northern Chumash Tribal Council.

"In honor of my late father Fred Harvey Collins, passed into spirit October 1, 2021, he would be so proud of us today. One of the last things that we talked about was how important preserving and protecting the Chumash culture was, the ocean and 140 miles of coastline. He had said this would be one of the biggest achievements of his lifetime, and he was so proud of where we are today. In memory of his legacy, I will continue to move forward and do the work, " said Walker.

Betsy Weber with the Environmental Defense Center said, "For many years the Environmental Defense Center has been working to protect the Pacific Ocean of the Central Coast and today marks a major milestone."

She also said it was nominated because of its "impressive marine biodiversity and Chumash sacred sites."

Anderson said public support will be needed for it to become a reality.

"We are moving the process onto the next step and to get more pubic engagement and to have wider discussions about what we are going to do with this proposed National Marine Sanctuary."

Carbajal said it will protect a $1.9 trillion coastal economy that included tourism and commercial fishing.

That may not sit well with supporters of the oil platforms off the coast.

A man at the Goleta Beach after sunset said the rising price of oil makes him oppose the idea of limiting oil drilling and development.

Jeffrey Flint, a recent UCSB graduate, said he supports the sanctuary idea, and said a lot of workers are ferried out to a platform off Goleta that is being decommissioned.

The sanctuary could take two to three years to approve.

Article Topic Follows: Environment & Energy

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Tracy Lehr

Tracy Lehr is a reporter and the weekend anchor for News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Tracy, click here


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