For the first time in decades, our nation’s coastlines face an uncertain future. Next month, Congress is expected to vote on legislation to stop any plan to open up nearly the entire United States coastline to oil and gas drilling. From Maine to Florida and along the Pacific, our coasts — and the 52 national parks that protect them — could be exposed to unprecedented danger if such a plan was made final.
I want to thank U.S. Reps. Elise Stefanik and John Katko for voting in June for temporary protections for our coastal parks, and I urge them to vote to protect permanently our coastal national parks that provide some of the highest levels of protection to our public lands and waters. Coastal parks are special places that protect a variety of animals and plants, preserve our nation’s historic structures and cultural legacies, and serve as an economic engine for local communities. They are simply too valuable to put at risk for offshore drilling.
Right here in New York, the impact of offshore oil and gas drilling would be significantly felt. Our state is the proud home to five coastal national parks: Fire Island National Seashore, Gateway National Recreation Area, Governors Island National Monument, Sagamore Hill National Historic site and the Statue of Liberty National Monument. New York also has many excellent parks in the Thousand Islands region.
Those of us who are fortunate enough to reside here cherish all state and national parks. As we work hard to protect our St. Lawrence River, we must not lose sight of the other important water resources.
Last year alone, more than 14.5 million people visited the five coastal national parks to enjoy the outdoors and learn about our nation’s rich history. Their visits contributed nearly $556 million to local communities and supported the creation of 6,512 jobs.
But healthy coastal parks depend on the protection of offshore waters. If an administration opens the door to potential oil spills, the long-term future of our parks, their natural and cultural resources and the economies they support would be at risk. We in the Thousand Islands area understand that well.
Our New England neighbors would also be severely affected. Acadia National Park, Boston National Historical Park and the region’s six other coastal national parks attract millions of visitors every year and contribute substantially to the coastal economy of the region.
We have long seen the kind of damage offshore drilling can cause to wildlife and coastline communities. Less than a decade ago, the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill caused tremendous environmental and economic damage throughout the Gulf of Mexico region.
From coast to coast, thousands of elected officials from across the political spectrum, local businesses, fishing families and environmental organizations have said no to expanding offshore drilling. Your voice is needed now more than ever to tell Reps. Stefanik and Katko to continue to stand up and defend coastal national parks from oil and gas drilling.
Ann B. Ward