NOAA Seeks Applicants for Wisconsin Shipwreck Coast National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council
By: Katie Denman
In August of 2021, NOAA announced the designation of Wisconsin Shipwreck Coast National Marine Sanctuary, a 962-square-mile area of Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan, adjacent to the communities of Two Rivers, Manitowoc, Sheboygan, and Port Washington. This is our nation’s 15th and newest marine sanctuary. Now, NOAA is establishing a Sanctuary Advisory Council to provide advice and recommendations for the new sanctuary. Applications for the council will be accepted through October 1, 2022.
National Significance and Local Impacts
Co-managed by the state of Wisconsin, the sanctuary promotes maritime heritage in Lake Michigan and provides a national stage for promoting recreation and tourism in the mid Lake Michigan region. Through broad-based research and education programs, the sanctuary advances Lake Michigan conservation and inspires future generations to protect our Great Lakes and oceans.
The 36 historic shipwreck sites within the sanctuary represent vessels that played a central role in building the nation between the 1830s and 1930s. The shipwrecks represent a cross-section of vessel types that drove the transformation of the Great Lakes from a maritime frontier into the nation’s busiest waterway.
Well-preserved by Lake Michigan’s cold, fresh water, several of the known shipwrecks are essentially intact and look much like they did when they sank. The sanctuary also includes Wisconsin’s two oldest known shipwrecks. Twenty-seven are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and research suggests that another 60 shipwrecks may yet to be discovered.
Bringing Diverse Interests Together
When Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary was designated in 1990, NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries was required by Congress to establish an advisory council for that site. The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council was established in 1992, setting the tone for the rest of the National Marine Sanctuary System. Today, all sites within the National Marine Sanctuary System have an advisory council to foster a stewardship ethic within the community and facilitate communication with stakeholders.
The Role of the Sanctuary Advisory Council
"It has been a long road but the lakefront communities continued to support the creation of our marine sanctuary. We are very excited for it to finally be official and to establish the sanctuary's advisory council” says Leslie Kohler, board member for the Sailing Education Association of Sheboygan.
All sites within the National Marine Sanctuary System have an advisory council made up of community members. Council members serve as a bridge between NOAA and sanctuary communities. They help keep sanctuary staff informed of issues and concerns, while also providing information to their communities on the sanctuary’s behalf. The Wisconsin Shipwreck Coast National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council will also provide advice to NOAA regarding the sanctuary's management plan, maritime heritage resources in the sanctuary, and mechanisms for protecting sanctuary resources against existing and future threats.
“The sanctuary designation was made possible by local communities and partners” says Russ Green, superintendent at Wisconsin Shipwreck Coast National Marine Sanctuary. “Just as their vision and commitment shaped the sanctuary, the advisory council will continue in that same spirit to help drive sanctuary programs and to connect with communities in new and meaningful ways.”
Seeking Applicants From the Wisconsin Community
NOAA is seeking applicants for 15 voting seats for the Wisconsin Shipwreck Coast National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council. Council seats will represent a variety of interests, from recreation and tourism to education and outreach. We are currently seeking applicants to represent:
- Citizen-at-Large (3 seats)
- Diving/Dive Clubs/Archaeology (2 seats)
- History, Heritage, and Public Interpretation (2 seats)
- K-12 Education (1 seat)
- Higher Education (1 seat)
- Tourism and Marketing (2 seats)
- Economic Development (1 seat)
- Fishing (recreational, charter, and/or commercial) (1 seat)
- Recreation (1 seat)
- Maritime Industry (1 seat)
We aim to create a council that is balanced in point of view, experience, and geographic diversity. Candidates will be selected based on their expertise relating to the seat they apply for, their community and professional affiliations, and their interests regarding the stewardship of maritime heritage resources.
Council members will participate in evening meetings several times each year at various locations, with occasional strategic half-day sessions as needed. The council may decide to hold “hybrid” meetings with both in-person and virtual attendance. Council meetings will be open to the public and provide a place where community interests, support, and concerns are heard. Members serve two or three-year terms, and are limited to three consecutive terms.
Additionally, several government entities hold non-voting seats, including the cities of Two Rivers, Manitowoc, Sheboygan, and Port Washington.
Similarly, the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries welcomes the participation of such interested nations and tribes on the council. This process can be initiated by contacting the sanctuary superintendent. Participation on the council does not take the place of government-to-government consultation nor does it serve as the only opportunity for engagement between NOAA and Native American nations and tribes.
If you are interested in applying for a seat on the Sanctuary Advisory Council, please visit https://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/wisconsin/involved/ and follow the application instructions. Applications will be accepted through October 1, 2022.
Katie Denman is the national advisory council coordinator for NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries