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Thirty years ago, environmental protection had barely begun to surface as a high-priority value for Americans. Environmental protection efforts reflected that dim awareness -- such efforts were sporadic and tentative.
Today, environmental values are situated squarely within the American “psyche” -- over 85 percent of Americans say they are environmentalists to some degree. That environmental commitment shows up in local and state laws, in private conservation efforts, in investments in environmental research.
For the Santa Barbara coastline, this means 30 different federal, state and local agencies already oversee management of the Santa Barbara Channel and its harbors. Superimposition of a sanctuary “supra-authority” over this decision-making structure would sidestep the knowledge that comes from near-hand, long-time experience with local circumstances and conditions.
How the Channel Island sanctuary debate plays out may be a bellwether for 21st Century environmentalism. A growing chorus of voices -- on issues ranging from marine sanctuaries to grazing lands to watersheds -- is pressing for a greater local voice in environmental decisions that were relentlessly pushed to Washington, D.C., for the past 30 years. Their message? Local decision-making is critical to maintaining environmental protection and community well-being.