Providence RI (SPX) Apr 20, 2011
Policymakers are very familiar with land-use planning. But what is the best approach for planning uses of America's coastal waters and oceans? That question has gained importance since President Obama formed the National Ocean Council last summer and charged it with developing an ecosystem-based stewardship policy for the nation's oceans, coastal waters and the Great Lakes.
A team of natural and social scientists led by Brown University offers some guidance. Published in the scientific journal Conservation Letters, the team's paper offers policy recommendations based on a two-year investigation of marine protection efforts by more than two-dozen local and regional projects from California to Maine.
The authors find no group has a one-size-fits-all solution to managing a marine or freshwater area. But they write that many have come up with individual practices that, when combined, could help create an effective national ocean-management policy.
"Every project is engaged in some new and effective ecosystem-based practices, but none of them is doing them all," said Leila Sievanen, a postdoctoral researcher in the Center for Environmental Studies at Brown University and the paper's lead author. "Together, though, they are demonstrating what could work on the national level."
In July, Obama established the National Ocean Policy. The executive order stipulates "for the first time a comprehensive, integrated national policy for the stewardship of the ocean, our coasts and Great Lakes, which sets our nation on a path toward comprehensive planning for the preservation and sustainable uses of these bodies of water," according to the White House.
The National Ocean Council, the body created to carry out the order, is expected to release a series of draft strategic action plans this summer.
The paper's authors, which include Heather Leslie, an expert on marine ecosystem-based management at Brown, report several practices that they have observed to be successful in the field. They say including these elements in ocean planning will help bridge the gap between government regulations and grassroots efforts.
"Many of the best practices we've observed come from local groups," Leslie said. "We expect that as the National Ocean Policy moves forward, these local efforts will continue to serve as a model for how to more proactively manage America's oceans."
Contributing authors on the paper include Julia Wondolleck and Steven Yaffee at the University of Michigan, Karen McLeod at Oregon State University, and Lisa Campbell at Duke University. The David and Lucile Packard Foundation funded the research.
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