Joining Forces for Our Oceans, Coasts, and Great Lakes

Last week, the National Ocean Council brought together more than 500 Federal, state, tribal, and local government representatives, indigenous community leaders, and other stakeholders and members of the public from across the country for a National Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning (CMSP) Workshop in Washington, DC. An additional 260 participants joined us online for the Workshop webcast. The workshop kicked off a major program of regional collaboration to advance the stewardship of our ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes—and by all accounts it provided a great start to achieving this important goal. 

We heard from participants how cooperative ocean and coastal planning can be used to create jobs, help secure energy independence, enhance recreational opportunities, and maximize the uses of our Nation’s working waters while ensuring their conservation for future generations. We also discussed how our country’s first comprehensive National Ocean Policy engages tribal nations as equal partners alongside states and the Federal government to produce a balanced plan that serves all Americans who have equities in  our ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources. 

The workshop was part of a growing conversation among our partners and stakeholders in the Nation’s regions to establish regional planning bodies that will work collaboratively to develop comprehensive regional coastal and marine spatial plans.  Among the key issues discussed at the workshop were: 

  • The importance of science and evidence-based data and traditional knowledge and experience  in advancing CMSP;
  • How best to represent existing local and regional entities on the regional planning bodies
  • How to design incentives that will spur implementation of CMSP; and
  • How to strike the right balance between the need for regional flexibility and the value of national consistency as regional planning bodies are established and as they carry out their work

The workshop featured expert panels, question and answer sessions, and a planning simulation exercise that explored how different groups can work together to effectively tackle these and other important issues. Discussions also helped bring to light a wide range of valuable “lessons learned” from previous state and regional efforts to implement CMSP.  We heard about efforts already underway in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Washington, Oregon, New York, and California, as well as through regional partnerships. During the last several years, these and other efforts have played a prominent role leading the way towards more effective and integrated planning, and we intend  to learn from and build on these successes as we move forward.

This was just the beginning of a discussion to ensure the future health of our ocean, coasts and Great Lakes. Regional workshops will also be held across the country in the months ahead to build on the progress we made last week. The National Ocean Council will be using the many suggestions proffered during the workshop, along with advice gathered from continued dialogue with partners and stakeholders to further inform the establishment of regional planning bodies in the months ahead. In particular, the National Ocean Council will obtain input from our Governance Coordinating Committee, composed of states, tribes, and local government representatives, on additional representation on the regional planning bodies.  We very much look forward to working with our state and tribal partners, and all interested Americans, toward healthy and productive oceans, coasts and Great Lakes. 

You can watch the public session of the CMSP Workshop here.

Andy Lipsky is an Ocean Policy Advisor for the National Ocean Council

Your Federal Tax Receipt