Wednesday, September 16, 2009

U.S. National Oceans Policy: important task force in charge of charting the future

Did you know that June was National Oceans Month? Neither did I but a proclamation was made by the Obama administration to that effect - one of many proclamations that are made, distributed, and then (if not picked up by the media) sink into oblivion.

It actually comes on the heels of a more important presidential memorandum where President Obama outlines the needs and a time frame for a National Oceans Policy. This too has been going on a bit on the sidelines, what with all the attention on healthcare reform, a unifying energy policy, and foreign policy. But as critical as the oceans are to the future of this planet, for the United States to have a national policy regarding our coastlines, rivers, and lakes is paramount.

An Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force has been set up and public hearings have been scheduled. The first was held in Anchorage, AK in August. The next meeting is tomorrow, 9/17, in San Francisco, CA, and the last meeting will be on 9/24 in Providence, RI. These meetings are open to the public. Following the hearings, the Task Force will have another 3 months to develop a working plan, "a recommended framework for coastal and marine spatial planning."

"The oceans, our coasts, and the Great Lakes provide jobs, food, energy resources, ecological services, recreation, and tourism opportunities, and play critical roles in our Nation’s transportation, economy, and trade, as well as the global mobility of our Armed Forces and the maintenance of international peace and security," President Obama wrote in the memorandum. "We have a stewardship responsibility to maintain healthy, resilient, and sustainable oceans, coasts and Great Lakes resources for the benefit of this and future generations."

"The challenges our oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes are facing are complex, and to meet these challenges we must have the participation of a wide spectrum of views from within the federal government," said Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. "The Task Force has a wealth of opportunity to make our oceans, coasts and Great Lakes healthier - both environmentally and economically."

If you can't attend one of the public hearings, you can submit comments online - but to be seriously considered your comments must be relevant to the issues and objectives of the Task Force (read about them on the Council for Environmental Quality web page). In other words, no rants, just solid comments and suggestions.

Although this has had little press, it is vitally important as it will set the tone and agenda for this administration when it comes to ocean conservation.

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