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Oases of the seas

Stamps mark 50 years of marine protection

The National Marine Sanctuaries stamps highlight 16 habitats and monuments.

The Postal Service is celebrating 50 years of the National Marine Sanctuary System with the release of 16 stamps on Aug. 5.

The National Marine Sanctuaries pane features images as varied as the habitats and monuments that make up this vast network, which ranges from Rose Atoll in the South Pacific to Stellwagen Bank off the coast of Cape Cod, MA.

The system got its start on Oct. 23, 1972, when the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act was signed — 100 years after the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act became law.

That 1872 law was the first step in establishing the National Park Service. Similarly, the 1972 law provided a framework for preserving and protecting marine areas of ecological, cultural and historical importance.

Today, the system covers 620,000 square miles, with 15 sanctuaries and two monuments. It is managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The stamps were designed by art director Greg Breeding from existing photographs, with a map of the system by illustrator Todd M. Detwiler on the back of the pane.

The Forever stamps will be sold in Post Offices and on