The Proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary’s Plan To Protect the Coastline

The proposed marine sanctuary would include a long stretch of coastline

Santa Barbara Harbor
Changes might be coming to a stretch of California coastline.
George Rose/Getty Images

In recent years, news of California’s coastline has generally involved situations from the inconvenient to the catastrophic — including landslides and stretches of highway collapsing. All of which makes a campaign that could soon reach fruition that much more encouraging, as it would have the effect of preserving a large stretch of the state’s coastline while also redressing a historical injustice.

Writing at The Washington Post, Silvia Foster-Frau has details on the efforts to establish the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary, which would cover 156 miles of coastline and would encompass 7,000 square miles in total. Currently, the project is awaiting approval from the federal government, though the NOAA announced its support for the project in late 2021.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t some areas of disagreement — as Foster-Frau reports, one Chumash group is supportive of a wind farm that would be located in the northern stretch of the sanctuary, while another opposes it.

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In a statement issued to coincide with the NOAA’s request for public comment on the marine sanctuary, U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland addressed the importance of the project. “Local voices, indigenous knowledge, and collaborative stewardship will be integral to our efforts to bolster community resilience, protect our natural resources, and build a clean energy economy,” said Haaland.

The process of establishing the marine sanctuary isn’t yet completed — but the idea of preserving the environment while also elevating the profile of the Chumash and their history in what is now the western U.S. is an important project for reasons both environmental and historic. And for now, the waiting continues.

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