WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama announced Monday that his administration is creating two new marine sanctuaries in the United States, the first such sanctuaries to be established in 15 years.
The administration is declaring an 875-square-mile area of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin protected, as well as a 14-square-mile area of the tidal Potomac River in Maryland.
"These actions will protect waters of historic and national importance, and in the coming months I will look for opportunities to protect even more of our waters," Obama said in a video announcement to the international "Our Ocean" summit taking place in Chile this week.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) had recommended the area of Lake Michigan for sanctuary status, noting that the area "encompasses a key portion of an early transportation corridor that was critical to the expansion of the United States." The area has been the site of a number of recorded shipwrecks, and is known for both its environmental and archeological value.
The Maryland area, known as Mallows Bay, is also a recognized habitat for fish and wildlife, and has been the site of manifold maritime historical events from the Revolutionary War through World War I. The state had recommended the bay for sanctuary protections last year.
Chile also announced Monday that it is creating a massive new protected area, the Nazca-Desventuradas Marine Park. Fishing and extractive activities will be barred in the 297,518-square-kilometer region, which will be the largest protected area in the Americas.