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Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions
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, and seagrass.
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.