Overview of Coastal Habitat Protection and Restoration in the United States

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Coastal habitat protection and restoration in the United States has developed incrementally in response to the concerns of various interest groups and shifts in government priorities. A series of articles have been produced for the European Union’s Coastal Wiki to highlight the key legislation, programs and approaches that together constitute the US response to the need to protect and restore coastal habitats. Case studies were selected to provide greater depth on how these programs operate at state and regional scales. These articles represent a fraction of the larger framework of government programs related to the governance of coasts. There are numerous housing, taxation and agricultural laws and policies that are part of the mosaic that determines how coastal planning and decision making unfolds in the U.S .

ToC

Understanding the Political Context

  • Issue of State's Rights
  • Individual Property Rights
  • Reliance on incentives from federal programs
  • Emphasis on Stakeholder Participation
  • Learning-based management through the re-authorization process

Birth of Modern US Coastal Management

  • Stratton Commission
  • Coastal Governance Framework Established
  • Protected Areas Programs
  • Coordination between Programs
  • Linking Science to Management

Future of Coastal Management: US Commission on Ocean Policy


Understanding the Political Context

There are several political, cultural and governance traditions in the United States that influence the policies, principles and strategies that shape coastal habitat protection and restoration. Some have their roots in the founding of the country and others are the product of the environmental and social justice movements of the 1960s and ‘70s.

State's Rights

As a federation of states, much policymaking, planning and decision-making is the prerogative of each state. Federal law is reserved for issues considered to be in the national interest - such as defense and interstate commerce. But other issues and resources in which there is a national interest must be approached in a manner that respects the powers and responsibilities that reside with the states. At the state level the chief executive officer is the Governor and lawmaking is the responsibility of state legislatures. State and local governments raise taxes, provide for police and schools, build roads and bridges, underwrite and support water supply and wastewater treatment facilities that all have major impacts on coastal qualities and the intensity and distribution of suburban and urban development. States vary in how much authority for land use planning is delegated to local governments or larger regional bodies called counties. Where they exist, zoning laws determine the density and types of development permitted in a specific locale and set construction standards. Tidal waters are under state jurisdiction out three miles from the coast. The differences in state and local authorities and traditions of governance influence the design of frameworks for coastal planning and management.