On May 31, 2015, in response to the recent oil spill along the Gaviota Coast, some 500 people marched from Santa Barbara’s De la Guerra Plaza to West Beach in order to “Stand in the Sand” and demand an end to our reliance on fossil fuels and the disastrous oil spills that continue to foul our oceans, kill marine life, and endanger the future of one of the most unique coastal habitats in the world.

The terrible images coming from this latest spill in Santa Barbara bring us back in time to the 1969 oil disaster and give us a stark reminder of how close we remain to a repeat of that level of oil-driven devastation along California’s Central Coast.

It also reminds us that we can no longer wait for the damage to be done before we act!

The Central Coast needs the highest level of protection from offshore oil drilling. National Marine Sanctuaries provide that level of protection, and we now have an opportunity to be proactive.

The proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary would permanently halt plans for any future oil drilling within its boundaries. The marine environment off Point Conception in particular is widely known for its rich biological resources and the frequent presence of 13 whale and dolphin species. An oil spill in that environment would be a tragedy of global proportion.

As an environmental studies professor at Antioch University Santa Barbara and vice-president of the Tribal Trust Foundation supporting eco-cultural preservation, I know the proposed site for the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary contains significant cultural and ecological assets. It is vital to protect them, and only a national marine sanctuary provides what these resources deserve: integrated, ecosystem-based management, and the prohibition of offshore drilling.

I encourage anyone who is concerned about protecting these precious resources to visit the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary website chumashsanctuary.com and sign up as a supporter of this crucial nomination effort.


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