Strong State Policies Can Improve Coastal Habitat Protection New Analysis Shows

By leveraging federal authority, many states are conserving kelp, eelgrass, and other sensitive areas

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Strong State Policies Can Improve Coastal Habitat Protection New Analysis Shows
States can use provisions in the Coastal Zone Management Act to help protect habitat that’s critical to wildlife and people, such as this eelgrass meadow at False Bay Biological Preserve in Washington’s San Juan Islands.
States can use provisions in the Coastal Zone Management Act to help protect habitat that’s critical to wildlife and people, such as this eelgrass meadow at False Bay Biological Preserve in Washington’s San Juan Islands.
Olivia Graham

Along the United States’ extensive coastlines and just offshore, kelp forests, eelgrass meadows, clam beds, and other habitats teem with life. These ecosystems provide an impressive array of benefits to wildlife, flora, ocean health, and coastal communities. Fortunately, states can use a provision of the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA), known as the “federal consistency authority,” to help ensure federal and federally authorized projects, such as dredging and offshore energy production, don’t harm coastal habitats.

Now, a new report from the Environmental Law Institute (ELI) details how 10 states are using this authority to sustain important habitats and manage changing climate conditions. Under the CZMA, state coastal management programs identify (and submit to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for approval) a suite of requirements from existing state law—called “enforceable policies”—–that apply to activities affecting coastal resources and uses. States can then review federal and federally authorized activities for consistency with these enforceable policies.

The ELI report describes how states can develop a strong set of enforceable policies, and highlights examples that may be useful to state governments seeking to influence federal decisions and protect coastal resources from harmful impacts of development.

The Pew Charitable Trusts provided funding for this project, but Pew is not responsible for errors in this paper and does not necessarily endorse its findings or conclusions.

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