The Big Idea

The Centennial of the National Park Service in 2016 provides an historic opportunity to launch a decadal effort to bring America’s “best idea” to where it is most urgently needed now — our ocean.

“No water, no life. No blue, no green.”

The Big Idea

The Blue Centennial initiative is designed to inspire action to restore and maintain the health of the ocean in the 21st century just as the National Park System protected the land in the 20th century and inspired a global movement to protect special places.
 

The Centennial of the National Park Service in 2016 provides a historic opportunity to launch a decadal effort to bring America’s best idea to where it is most urgently needed now — the ocean.


Today, after decades of multiple threats, the oceans need protection.


Overfishing, in combination with dumping toxic waste, warming, and acidification of the oceans, have led to significant loss of habitats, declining ocean life, and the development of “dead zones.”

In order to reduce the adverse effects of human activities and protect vital resources for generations to come, our goal is to fully protect at least 30 percent of ocean in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (U.S. EEZ), including important coastal areas, in an effort to restore and maintain the health of America’s ocean.  This effort will also allow U.S Government leadership to inspire other nations to fully protect an equivalent percentage of their territorial waters and the high seas.

U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (Image Courtesy of NOAA)


Such efforts must begin with plans to protect a diverse group of areas, including coastal and offshore areas in the U.S. EEZ.


To refine and meet this goal, a coalition of partners from across the conservation and policy spectrum will come together to launch a ten-year initiative.

The work will evolve around four key activities:

  • 1 Capturing hearts and minds by communicating the importance of these marine areas through scientific expeditions, building the scientific record, filming, and storytelling;
  • 2 Engaging key stakeholders – leaders in nonprofits, fishing associations, businesses, local aquariums, universities, technology companies, and the legislative and executive branches of government at the local, state and national levels -- relevant to the marine area to be protected;
  • 3 Creating and expanding marine national monuments by executive order under the American Antiquities Act of 1906 and creating and expanding National Marine Sanctuaries with legislation or rulemaking under the National Marine Sanctuaries Act;
  • 4 Ensuring there are adequate resources to manage and enforce compliance with respect to these marine protected areas.

From National Parks to Blue Parks


In 1871, Civil War veteran William H. Jackson’s photographs from the Hayden Yellowstone expedition inspired Congress to designate Yellowstone as the world’s first National Park. Our national parks -- what Lord James Bryce and Wallace Stegner called “the best idea we ever had”-- put large tracts of land into federal custody for future generations right on the heels of the Industrial Age and our manifest destiny when almost nothing remained untouched.

Each major anniversary of the National Park Service had something significant to celebrate – the signing of the Organic Act creating the National Park Service in 1916; celebrating parks as history as military battlefields joined the system by the 25th anniversary; celebrating parks and people as Mission 66 built the infrastructure to enable millions from America and around the world to access and enjoy the national parks by the 50th anniversary; and a Vail Agenda to properly manage and maintain our national parks at the 75th anniversary.


With this 2016 Centennial, we must recommit to exemplary stewardship and public enjoyment of not only our green parks, but form a plan of action and accountability to restore and maintain the health of our ocean with a next century of “Blue Parks”


This 2016 Centennial of the National Park Service launches the Blue Centennial -- a sustained effort in the coming years and decades to bring the national park idea to the ocean. The Blue Centennial Initiative will create goals, an evidence-based plan of action, high-quality implementation, and accountability for results to restore and maintain the health of our ocean over the next century.


Our Mission

Our mission is to develop and implement a framework that facilitates science & exploration, education & storytelling, and protection & stewardship, by working with anchor institutions and a coalition of stakeholders to identify gaps in protection of key biodiversity areas along U.S. coasts and offshore in the U.S. EEZ, to expand the national system of marine protected areas and inspire action around the world.

OUR VISION

Restoring, protecting, and maintaining a network of blue parks to preserve America’s ocean wonders in early part of the 21st century, just as the National Park Service did for our most magnificent landscapes in the early part of the 20th century.

OUR GOALS

  • To fully protect 30-50 percent of ocean in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone in an effort to reduce our footprint, and restore, protect and maintain the health and vital resources of America’s ocean for current and future generations to come.
  • To inspire other nations to fully protect an equivalent percentage of their territorial waters and the high seas.


The 10 Year Plan


The Blue Centennial Initiative will initially extend for 10 years, with activities in three phases.  The first phase from 2016 to 2021, outlined in greater detail below, will include:


  • Ongoing and new scientific expeditions and building the scientific record through exploration, mapping, filming, photography and storytelling of potential Marine Protected Areas in the U.S. EEZ based on an agreed upon priority list for protection;
  • Ongoing and new stakeholder engagement by area, engaging youth, nonprofits, businesses, fishing associations, policymakers and others in understanding the importance of protecting marine areas;
  • Ongoing and new efforts to expand or create Marine Protected Areas in the Pacific, Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, and the Bering Sea following the science and showing that protected areas in each part of the ocean are possible;
  • Production, preview in 2016 and global public release in January 2017 of the Blue Centennial Film, to build public understanding and support for protection;
  • Release of the National Geographic Cover Story on the Blue Centennial in January 2017; and
  • Launch of the Blue Centennial 10-Year Initiative to sustain the effort in 2016.