In considering the United States’ conservation legacy, we often look west. But Theodore Roosevelt – arguably the father of conservation in our country – reminds us that New England, and Maine, in particular, also had the extraordinary foresight to preserve its natural resources in perpetuity for all Americans. As our 26th president put it:

“The forests and water power of Maine constitute the larger part of her wealth and form the basis of her industrial life, and…bear testimony to the wisdom of the people of Maine, and clearly define a policy of conservation of natural resources, the adoption of which is of vital importance not merely to Maine but to the whole country.”

We need not look any further than Acadia National Park and Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument to see this legacy. Yet not all of our region’s most majestic areas are on land. In fact, one lesser-known wonder lies 130 miles off our coast: The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, which is the U.S. Atlantic Ocean’s only marine national monument. But the monument’s riches are currently at risk, and its future rests with President Biden to protect this vital marine sanctuary after his predecessor weakened the area’s strong protections last June.

If we could see this monument above the waves, its landscape would be as dramatic as any on land. It features steep canyons and towering mountains, and its charismatic wildlife would draw visitors from across the world. Beneath the surface, there are colorful deep-sea coral forests that support an ecosystem ranging from the tiny microbes at the base of the food chain to symbiotic sea stars and anemones. Above the water, you might see a plethora of seabirds, whales and dolphins – many of them with their babies – who come here to feed and play.

While visiting this place is unlikely for most people, scientists continue to study its essential contributions to the marine ecosystem. Research in the Canyons and Seamounts allows us to understand the importance of this area as a sanctuary for scientific discovery and biodiversity. That’s why protecting this amazing place is an investment in our future. Safeguarding it is more important with each passing year.

Here’s what we know: The Earth is warming and so is the ocean. More than one million species are threatened with extinction. Humans and wildlife are migrating in search of higher ground and cooler temperatures. The quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink is deteriorating. It is clearer by the day that the planet’s ability to sustain life as we know it is not inexhaustible.

But we also know that the ocean has a remarkable capacity to restore itself if we reduce or remove damaging influences, like offshore drilling, pollution, or overfishing. Scientists determined that, with strong protections and conservation efforts, ocean ecosystems could recover in as little as 30 years. A recent report also highlights how long-term safeguards helped marine ecosystems around the globe restore fish populations, protect endangered species, and recover faster from climate change impacts. A healthy planet keeps us all—humans, plants, animals, fungi and microbes—alive. That’s why it’s incumbent on us to protect what we can, while we can.

It was a blow to both precedent and our natural heritage when former President Donald Trump rolled back protections against commercial fishing for this remarkable habitat last summer. By restoring the monument’s protection from potentially harmful human activities, including commercial fishing, we are choosing a future in which our relationship to the ocean is balanced and sustainable.

We call on President Biden to restore robust permanent protections to the Canyons and Seamounts for reasons that Amanda Gorman, poet laureate, articulated so eloquently in her poem “Ode to the Ocean,”

Being the people of this blue planet is our most
Profound privilege and power,
For if we be the ocean’s saviors,
Then it is surely ours.

— Special to the Telegram


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