An Historical Look at Planning for the Federal Public Lands: Adding Marine Spatial Planning Offshore
6:1 George Washington Journal of Energy & Environmental Law 1-20 (Winter 2015)
20 Pages Posted: 14 Jun 2014 Last revised: 28 Apr 2015
Date Written: April 27, 2015
The federal government controls far more offshore public lands - the Outer Continental Shelf - than it controls terrestrial lands, but the oceans have been bereft of the kind of comprehensive planning mandated for other public lands under statutes like the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) or the National Forest Management Act (NMFA). Beginning with the Oceans Act of 2000, however, the federal government has considered adopting comprehensive planning for the oceans, generally known as marine spatial planning or marine zoning. Indeed, reports such as those from the Pew Oceans Commission in 2003 and the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy in 2004 strongly recommended national and regional marine spatial planning for the United States' oceans.
When the National Ocean Council proposed its Implementation Plan for the newly created U.S. Ocean Policy, it would have required comprehensive regional marine spatial planning in all U.S. ocean waters. In April 2013, however, the Council’s Final Implementation Plan reclassified marine spatial planning from a mandatory activity to a voluntary one, once again leaving the nation's offshore lands and waters without any legal mandate for comprehensive planning. This gap has important implications for offshore energy production and adaptation to climate change; it also perpetuates the regulatory fragmentation of ocean jurisdiction that prompted Congress to enact the Oceans Act fourteen years ago. This Article explores the implications of the Final Implementation Plan for the future of a comprehensive governance regime for the nation’s offshore resources, comparing the history of marine spatial planning in the United States to the histories of comprehensive planning for other federal public lands.
Keywords: public land, planning, Outer Continental Shelf, marine spatial planning, Ocean Stewardship Executive Order, implementation plan
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