Monday, April 29, 2013

New US plan paves way for local authorities to prepare coastal and marine spatial plans

The Obama administration released a comprehensive action plan earlier this month for protecting the United States’ lakes, oceans and coastlines. While the announcement was overshadowed by the Boston Marathon bombings, US environmental groups lauded the move as an important step forward.

The National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan is based on a policy put together by the Obama administration in 2010. That policy - the countries first-ever for protecting its marine resources - created the National Ocean Council (NOC), a body designed to increase cooperation among the multiple federal agencies working in the field.

President Obama signs the Executive Order for the Stewardship of the Ocean, Coasts & the Great Lakes

In its announcement, the White House emphasized that the new plan would not create any new legal tools or administrative bodies, but noted that it had been put together with the cooperation of a diverse set of stakeholders.

In addition to streamlining the federal bureaucracy, the plan is expected to help administrative bodies share data with each other and with the public, and will facilitate the restoration of coastal habitats.

One aspect of the plan that is of particular interest to us at Mare Nostrum is the opening it creates for local authorities in the US to prepare coastal and marine spatial plans, with the participation of local public and stakeholders. This tracks quite closely with the work we are doing on finding ways to improve implementation of existing laws and frameworks at the local level in the Mediterranean region.

The US government’s move also comes as the European Union is moving forward with its first binding directive on coastal spatial planning and integrated coastal zone management.

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