President Obama established yesterday a national stewardship policy that will protect the nation’s oceans as well as the Great Lakes. Many Great Lakes conservationists are calling the executive order a landmark move to protect the lakes.
“President Obama’s creation of a national ocean and Great Lakes policy is another big win for the Great Lakes, because the policy is designed to ensure that the federal government tackles the challenges facing the Great Lakes with the same level of urgency and importance as those facing our oceans and other coastal watersheds,” wrote Natural Resources Defense Council attorney Thomas Cmar.
The order establishes the National Policy for the Stewardship of the Ocean, Coasts, and Great Lakes. The policy results from more than a year of effort from the federal Ocean Policy Task Force, which Obama established in June 2009. A National Ocean Council will carry out the policy and facilitate greater coordination among the bevy of organizations responsible for managing the country’s oceans and Great Lakes.
“For years, we’ve lacked the appropriate set of resources and help to fix and improve the Lakes,” Cmar wrote. “This new policy encourages the federal government to better coordinate its actions, and to work with the states and stakeholders to clean our waters and ensure that our Great Lakes industries — including fishing, tourism, and recreation — remain strong. With this help at the federal level, we can finally get the job done that we in the Great Lakes have struggled to achieve: a vibrant, swimmable, fishable, drinkable inland sea.”
The policy lists furthering a practice called spatial planning as a key priority, which is essentially a zoning process that uses scientific research to determine what areas are best suited to a particular activity. This process will aim to, among other things, reduce environmental damage and preserve critical ecosystems. According to the White House, the process would be regional in scope, developed cooperatively among Federal, state, tribal, and local authorities, and include substantial stakeholder, scientific, and public input.
The policy can regulate ocean and Great Lakes activities such as commercial fishing, offshore drilling, and energy generation. Offshore wind farms, for example, could be permitted for certain areas of the Great Lakes where it was determined they would do the least harm to the environment.
The National Ocean Council is anticipated to hold its first meeting before the end of the summer to begin determining how to implement the policy. The full text of the new policy is available at www.whitehouse.gov/oceans.
Obama Administration Officials Announce the Final Recommendations of the Ocean Policy Task Force [The White House] New National Policy Gives Hope for the Future of the Great Lakes [Thom Cmar’s Blog] Executive Order–Stewardship of the Ocean, Our Coasts, and the Great Lakes [The White House]
Image Credit: Mark Alberts