Last October, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar called on the press to pay more attention to the Obama administration’s achievements in environmental conservation.
In response, The Miami Herald’s Carl Hiaasen suggested that the government give journalists more to write about, and he had a point. On Sunday, The Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin had a revealing article (which should’ve gotten higher billing in the paper) about the president’s “modest personal interest in wilderness protection.” But Salazar had a point as well. Articles like Eilperin’s are all too rare. Case in point: Obama’s National Ocean Policy.
In 2010, Obama established the policy, and created the National Ocean Council, based on the recommendations of an inter-agency task force that he’d created a year earlier. But it was really the culmination of a decade-long effort, which began with the Oceans Act of 2000, to institute a holistic federal approach to managing the country’s oceans, coastal areas, and the Great Lakes.
More than a dozen agencies and countless laws currently have a hand in that process, and the National Ocean Policy is an effort to make it more effective, efficient, and, ultimately, cheaper. At its core is what’s called coastal and marine spatial planning, an “integrated, ecosystem-based approach” to identify the areas most suitable to activities like recreational and commercial fishing, energy production, shipping, naval exercises, and water sports. The idea is to meet the nation’s economic, environmental, and security needs in a sustainable way.
The White House emphasizes that the National Ocean Policy is about revamping the use of existing authority and that it “does not require new legislation in order to be implemented and does not supersede or alter any agency or department’s existing authority,” but it’s been incredibly controversial. While the scientific community and environmentalists support the policy, fishermen, energy companies, and others have denounced it as more big government.