President Obama has proposed that more than 2,700 square miles off the coast of Northern California be added to the national marine sanctuary system, which would protect the area from oil and gas drilling permanently. It would be the biggest addition to the 40-year-old system in 20 years, doubling the total protected sanctuary area. The otters are so excited you guys.

From the San Jose Mercury News:

“This is a matter of economic common sense. Jobs and livelihoods hang in the balance,” [said Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D)]. “No one is going to vacation on the Sonoma coast if they are looking at oil derricks.”

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I like her logic, even though lots of people vacation along the California coast within view of all kinds of offshore drilling equipment. (Ahem, Santa Barbara.)

In recent months, Woolsey, who is retiring from Congress on Jan. 3, urged Obama to use his executive authority to create a new national monument along the scenic Sonoma coast. Obama, however, stopped short of creating a monument, opting instead to use the NOAA administrative process, which triggers public hearings in Northern California early next year, along with detailed environmental studies. It is expected to take up to two years to finalize …

“This is one of the crowning achievements of the coastal protection movement in California,” said Richard Charter, a senior fellow with the Ocean Foundation in Washington, D.C. “This is a permanent ban on offshore drilling, forever, at a time when Congress has not been particularly interested in conservation.”

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The Sierra Club said, “President Obama gave Californians and all Americans a tremendous gift today.” But this is particularly great news for nature, which would really prefer to do whatever the hell nature wants.

While Northern California’s coastal sea otters are poised to get an expanded sanctuary, earlier this week Southern California’s otters got some good news too. The federal government is officially abandoning its effort to keep otters near a remote island — an effort that resulted in most of the otters dying — and will now let them float free. From the San Francisco Chronicle:

“Trying to tell a marine mammal to stay on one side of an imaginary line across the water was a dumb idea,” said Steve Shimek, executive director of the Otter Project.

Shimek said the otters’ new freedom will help restore the coastal ecosystem of Southern California (near those offshore drilling operations, natch).

From KPCC:

Otters are good for kelp forests. And kelp forests, called the “redwoods of the sea,” are home to hundreds of species valuable to a biologically diverse coastal ecosystem.

Things are looking up for this Christmas, Ma and Emmett Otter!

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