NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) has published the proposed management plan and regulations for the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS). The 2022 Restoration Blueprint will guide the management and use of the sanctuary for years to come.
Last Stand is asking our members and supporters to get involved in the process to finalize the Restoration Blueprint by asking questions, submitting comments at a virtual forum, or attending one of three in-person meetings this September in Key Largo, Marathon, and Key West.
The draft has some great proposals for habitat conservation and protection that will be a positive step once adopted, but Last Stand feels NOAA hasn’t gone far enough. Several changes Last Stand supported with our comments in 2020 HAVE NOT been proposed for adoption. For instance, the management plan can be improved to enhance efforts to fix water quality issues. We continue to be concerned with the lack of ACTION to reduce nutrient pollution in the Halo Zone near-shore waters. Your comments on these and other issues are important for FKNMS to hear.
Find Out More
NOAA has scheduled a virtual Question and Answer Session on Tuesday, August 16th, between 6:00 and 9:00 pm EDT. To attend this virtual meeting, you need to register in advance using this link. To make sure that all questions are covered during the meeting, you can submit them in advance by email to Blueprint.Questions@noaa.
Comment at the Virtual Meeting
Register for the virtual Public Comment Meeting, to be held on Tuesday, August 30th , between 6:00 and 9:00 pm EDT, using this link. This will be the only chance to make oral comments without attending an in-person meeting.
KEY ISSUES FOR COMMENTS
If water quality is important to you, thank NOAA for tightening cruise ship regulations in the sanctuary. Then ask NOAA to add accountability, assign target completion dates, recognize the sources of water pollution, and alert partner organizations to act and reduce nutrient pollution caused by human activities in near shore waters.
If you want to support coral restoration, thank NOAA for adding many small no-anchor zones that have active coral nurseries and restoration areas. The proposed rules also establish Pulley Ridge Wildlife Management Area as a no-anchor zone to protect deep-water corals, the alternative that Last Stand supported in 2020.
If turtles are important to you, thank NOAA for increasing the size of turtle nesting site no-entry zones, then ask that the Marquesas Keys Turtle Wildlife Management Area be expanded back to the recommended alternative #3 boundary in the 2019 draft. This zone is a globally significant foraging area used by adult turtles. The minimum protection of requiring idle speed in the zone west of the Marquesas will reduce turtle fatalities from propeller strikes.
If birds are your priority, thank NOAA for establishing no-entry zones that surround small mangrove islands with nesting sites actively used by wading birds, shore birds and White-crowned Pigeons.
If you just like to hang out at beautiful backcountry beaches, nothing in the draft plan changes that. You will still be able to enjoy Boca Grande, Woman and Snipes Keys just the way you always have. The new sanctuary rules will protect habitat and wildlife, so you and your children can continue to experience all that the Florida Keys environmental resources have to offer.
There is a lot of information in the Restoration Blueprint documents. Last Stand and our non-profit partner organizations are still reviewing options for a comprehensive written response. As we develop specific positions that need to be supported by our members, we will reach out with updates and meeting reminders. You may also submit written comments online at this link now and until October 26th.