By Pete Stauffer, Environmental Director, Surfrider Foundation
If you’re like me, you go to the beach to escape the aggravations of modern life. What could be a better way to decompress from the daily onslaught of technology and divisive politics than surfing glassy waves at your local break? But in this current political climate, it’s more critical than ever for surfers to pay attention to what our elected officials are up to.
Right now, our leaders in Washington D.C. are launching an unprecedented assault on the coastlines we cherish as surfers. From attacks on clean water to new offshore drilling to the defunding of coastal management, President Trump and his allies in Congress are proposing policies that could damage many of our beaches and surf breaks across the country.
That’s why we must arm ourselves with information and speak out before it’s too late. Here’s the White House’s five-part plan to develop, pollute, and neglect your coasts. Check out the information below and please take action to protect our ocean, waves, and beaches.
1) New Offshore Drilling
Offshore oil drilling is a dirty and dangerous practice that pollutes the ocean and puts our coastal communities at risk of oil spills. Last year, the federal government decided to protect the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic from any new offshore drilling through 2022 in response to comments from millions of Americans. Unfortunately, the Trump administration has announced plans to revise this decision, likely putting your local beach at risk again. Over the next year, the Department of the Interior and Congress will consider options for expanding offshore drilling to regions including the South and Mid-Atlantic, the West Coast and the Arctic Ocean, among others. Our best hope to stop these proposals is for citizens to speak out against new oil drilling in our ocean. Visit Surfrider’s website to learn more and take action to stop new oil rigs off our coasts!
2) Threats to Beach Water Quality
If you surf, clean water is kind of a big deal. We’re the canaries in the coal mine when urban runoff or sewage overflows pollute our beaches. Yet, the President’s budget for 2018 cuts all funding for the EPA BEACH Grants program that supports water quality monitoring at over 4,000 beaches across the U.S. Funding for the BEACH Act is critical to providing surfers and other beachgoers with the information they need to avoid getting sick at the beach. Beach water quality monitoring and public notification programs are also necessary to protect public confidence in healthy beaches, which fuels coastal tourism and recreation economies that are worth over $100 billion and provide 2.15 million jobs nationwide. Please call your member of Congress and ask them to support funding for the EPA BEACH Grants Program for 2018. If you own a coastal business that relies on clean beaches please sign and share the business petition.
3) Attacks on Marine Protected Areas
Conserving marine habitats is one of the best ways to protect and restore the ocean. With ecosystems under siege from a variety of different threats — and top predators like billfish reduced by 90% — marine protected areas (MPAs) provide safe havens for marine life to grow and thrive. However, President Trump has issued executive orders to review and possibly revoke marine monuments and national marine sanctuaries from Hawaii to California to New England. The Department of the Interior has launched a 60-day comment period to gather input on this issue. As surfers, we are privileged to recreate in the ocean and have a stake in protecting marine ecosystems that enhance the surfing experience. Please submit comments in support of national monuments and marine sanctuaries by visiting http://www.regulations.gov and entering “DOI-2017–0002” in the search bar.
4) Coastal Management Defunded
Did you know that virtually every U.S. state depends on federal funding to manage its coasts? These state coastal programs are critical to keeping our beaches protected and open to the public. Yet, the Trump administration has targeted NOAA, the lead federal ocean agency, for major budget cuts including elimination of critical programs such as coastal management, coastal resilience, and Sea Grant. This would cripple the ability of states to protect coastlines from energy projects, seawalls, and plastic pollution. And, don’t forget that your daily surf forecast is based on data collected by NOAA. You can help protect coastal management by calling your representatives in Congress and asking them to reject any budget proposals that will interfere with NOAA’s ability to meet its mission.
5) Climate Change Denial
Climate change is real and it threatens to swallow our beaches, drown our surf breaks, and make the ocean more acidic. Scientists project that global sea level will rise up to six feet in the next century, putting over 50% of U.S. coastlines at high risk for beach loss. We need to start cutting carbon emissions fast if we want to pass along the ocean and coasts we love to the next generation. Yet, the Trump administration is reversing policies to reduce emissions and is now considering withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate agreements. Anyone who loves the coast needs to demand that our federal government recuse itself of its fossil fuel addiction and support renewable energy and conservation. Please take action to ask the Trump administration to honor commitments to reduce carbon emissions.