National Ocean Council Releases Draft Stewardship Plan
Last week, the National Ocean Council released a draft version of its plan to address oceanic, coastal, and Great Lakes issues across the United States. This is a major milestone in the fight to protect our nation’s water resources and ensure that the ecosystems, populations, and economies they support are kept healthy and productive for future generations. And we are happy to see the Great Lakes included in the national dialogue about the health of our coastal areas.
This draft plan is the outcome of an Executive Order (EO13547) issued in 2010 by President Obama that, among other things, established a National Ocean Council and called for the development of regional coastal and marine spatial plans. The “National Policy for the Stewardship of the Ocean, Our Coasts, and the Great Lakes” will serve as the guiding document for this new National Ocean Policy. It is open for public commentary until February 26.
“The ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes are integral to who we are as a Nation, and are among our greatest assets. They feed us, support millions of jobs, and provide recreation. They are part of our communities and cultures, and enhance our national security by their mere presence. With 53 percent of our population living in coastal counties according to the most recent census, and that percentage expected to grow to 63 percent by 2020, the United States is a coastal nation. Our valuable ocean and coastal resources are vulnerable to misuse, and need to be thoughtfully managed to ensure they will be healthy and productive for current and future generations.”
What is really remarkable about this effort is that it connects dozens of different federal agencies together to push for a unified vision. It provides the framework for all Federal agencies to work towards a common set of goals with clearly articulated actions – and for engagement with State, Tribal, and local governments; regional coalitions; non-profits and NGOs; and the private sector. It also pushes for open information and data sharing across agencies and governments, improving efficiency and opening the door for new collaborations.
The plan focuses on nine “priority objectives” for National Ocean Policy. These objectives are:
- Ecosystem-Based Management
- Inform Decisions and Improve Understanding
- Observations, Mapping, and Infrastructure
- Coordinate and Support
- Regional Ecosystem Protection and Restoration
- Resiliency and Adaptation to Climate Change and Ocean Acidification
- Water Quality and Sustainable Practices on Land
- Changing Conditions in the Arctic
- Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning
There is a clear recognition in this plan that stewardship of the Great Lakes is not just an environmental prerogative. In fact, the Federal Government articulates numerous other goals, committing to:
“ensure the protection, maintenance, and restoration of the health of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes ecosystems and resources, enhance the sustainability of ocean and coastal economies, preserve our maritime heritage, support sustainable uses and access, provide for adaptive management to enhance our understanding of and capacity to respond to climate change and ocean acidification, and coordinate with our national security and foreign policy interests.”
Comments on the plan may be submitted online, and will be posted on the National Ocean Council website. Comments will be reviewed and the plan finalized in 2012. Can’t get through the 118-page document and provide thoughtful commentary in time? Fortunately, the federal government intends to review and modify the National Ocean Policy as needed each year, so your comments may help shape future versions of the plan.