Photo: Wikimedia.

Obama protects Arctic and Atlantic from offshore drilling

On Tuesday, President Obama exercised his executive authority and withdrew hundreds of millions of acres in the Atlantic and Arctic Ocean from future oil or gas leasing, creating a ban on future offshore drilling. 

Obama did this using the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, a 1953 law which has previously been used to protect small portions of federal waters, but never to this extent.

While it is likely the Trump administration will attempt to repeal the ban, Obama’s legal experts are confident the ban will stand strong. The ban has been compared to the designation of national monuments under the 1906 Antiquities Act, all of which remain today.

New York Times: Obama Bans Drilling in Parts of the Atlantic and the Arctic

“Tuesday’s announcement would ban drilling in about 98 percent of federally owned Arctic waters, or about 115 million acres, a pristine region home to endangered species including polar bears and bowhead whales. It would also block drilling off the Atlantic Coast around a series of coral canyons in 3.8 million acres stretching from Norfolk, Va., to the Canadian border. The coral canyons are home to unique deepwater corals and rare species of fish.”

Speaking of protecting the ocean.. Your support is needed to establish a National Marine Sanctuary!

A new Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary has been proposed to permanently protect  the biologically and culturally rich waters of California’s Central Coast. The new designation would fill the unprotected gap between the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.  Designating this area a sanctuary would prohibit seismic testing, dumping of agriculture wastewater, and allow endangered wildlife such as whales, dolphins, sea otters, seals, and pelicans to thrive. 

Sanctuary benefits for the Indigenous Community and the Community of San Luis Obispo California:

  • Strengthen the security for and education of Chumash Tribal Sacred Sites
  • Provide a legacy of thrivability in our currently healthy local coastal waters
  • Preserve our unique and significant coastal ecosystems
  • Strengthen the tourism-based economy of the Central Coast
  • Bring funding for needed marine research
  • Enhance opportunities for local recreation
  • No offshore oil drilling
  • No acoustic testing

The Northern Chumash Tribal Council (NCTC), CA Central Coast Marine Sanctuary Alliance, Santa Lucia Chapter of Sierra Club, San Luis Obispo Chapter of Surfrider Foundation, COAST (Citizens Opposed to Acoustic Seismic Testing) would like to invite your organization to support our Indigenous proposed California Central Coast Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary.  

How to help: 

  • Sign the petition supporting the designation HERE
  • Emailing a letter of support to
  • Mail a letter of support to: Northern Chumash Tribal Council, 67 South Street, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401.
Speaking of marine sanctuaries, check out our network of Marine Protected Areas right here on the North Coast! 

You might have heard these areas exist along our North Coast, but where they are, and what purpose do they serve? All your questions can now be answered by a new series of outreach videos produced by the Humboldt and Del Norte MPA Collaboratives, and HSU film professor David Scheerer. If anything else, the videos are worth watching for the incredible underwater and aerial footage alone. 


Delia Bense-Kang serves as the Northcoast Environmental Center’s Marine Protected Area Outreach Coordinator and chairs Surfrider Foundation’s Humboldt Chapter.