This analysis of coastal habitat policy in six US states—California, Florida, Massachusetts,
North Carolina, Texas, and Washington—aims to identify promising policy approaches
for improved protection and restoration of oyster reefs, mangroves, salt marshes,
Coastal habitats provide critical environmental, economic, and recreational services
valued at billions of dollars in the United States alone. However, the quantity and
quality of most coastal habitats have been under decline for centuries due to a variety
of threats. Coordinated policy responses across levels of government are required
for protection and restoration of coastal habitats because they do not have discrete
jurisdictional boundaries and are often harmed by distant anthropogenic activities.
The analysis finds that state-level management is principally guided by federal coastal
protection and management statutes, namely the Clean Water Act and Coastal Zone Management
Act. State and federal policies are rarely habitat-specific and do not comprehensively
address threats, which can result in a fragmented policy landscape that struggles
to meet habitat protection and restoration goals. With limited long-term monitoring
data and few effectiveness studies, our ability to understand which policy levers
work and the extent to which they can be replicated in other states is limited.
A successful path forward may be found through local initiatives tailored and designed
for their local context that have effectively restored degraded habitats and employed
innovative regulatory mechanisms intended to streamline the permitting process for
restoration. Dedicated funding for sustained, long-term monitoring to best understand
the effects and outcomes of habitat protection and restoration policy efforts will
also be critical to identify enabling conditions and replicate effective measures
in similar contexts.
The Pew Charitable Trusts supported the development of this report. Pew is not responsible
for any inaccuracies and does not necessarily endorse the findings.
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