Ocean Community News

NOAA Opens Public Comment Period on America the Beautiful Initiative

NOAA is asking for input on what actions NOAA should take to advance President Biden’s America the Beautiful initiative. Now through December 28, a new notice in the Federal Register gives the public an opportunity to contribute ideas on ways NOAA can work with community partners to advance the goals and recommendations in the report on Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful, including conserving at least 30% of U.S. lands and waters by the year 2030, as outlined in Section 216(a) of Executive Order 14008.

“NOAA is taking the President’s inclusive, voluntary and locally led conservation goals to the next level,” said NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad, Ph.D. “For five decades, NOAA has connected people to places by conserving and restoring special marine, coastal, and Great Lakes areas for the benefit of all Americans. Our experience, in support of this Administration’s efforts, will leave a lasting legacy for the next generation.”

This year, NOAA has nearly tripled the size of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary in the Gulf of Mexico, designated Wisconsin Shipwreck Coast National Marine Sanctuary, proposed a new sanctuary in Lake Ontario, and proposed a new national estuarine research reserve in Connecticut.

“We are already making strides that are consistent with the President’s goals, and look forward to conserving and restoring more waters for the benefit of all Americans,” said Nicole LeBoeuf, NOAA’s National Ocean Service Assistant Administrator. “To do this the right way, we plan to make good use of the open and transparent engagement with stakeholders and Tribes that has made NOAA's ongoing conservation efforts so successful.”

Leading up to this public comment period, NOAA held five stakeholder roundtables, representing a wide range of interests, and two national roundtables open to the public. Participants asked for a way to formally weigh in on NOAA’s approach.

“Members of the U.S. fishing community are one of NOAA’s primary conservation partners, and contribute to the sustainable, collaborative management of our nation’s $244 billion commercial and recreational fishing industries,” said Janet Coit, NOAA Fisheries Assistant Administrator and Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere. “We are committed to providing all stakeholders with a seat at the table as we move forward with this important initiative.”

In response to the Executive Order, the U.S. Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, and Commerce, with the White House Council on Environmental Quality, released a preliminary report. The report recommends a decade-long national initiative to advance locally led efforts to conserve and restore public, private, and Tribal lands and waters. The efforts will address three threats: disappearance of nature, climate change, and inequitable access to the outdoors. Since the release of the report, NOAA has been actively seeking input from stakeholders on how NOAA should use our existing legal authorities to conserve and restore America’s ocean, coasts and Great Lakes. NOAA has received written comments, and heard from stakeholders during a series of virtual listening sessions. All input received since the release of the report will be considered equally with the input we receive through this Federal Register Notice.

Both in seeking public input now and implementing actions in the future, NOAA will adhere to the report’s eight core principles to build on the agency’s stewardship mission of connecting people to special marine, coastal, and Great Lakes places and protecting our Nation’s lands, waters, resources, and people. The report:

The public comment period is open now through December 28, 2021. During this period, NOAA will host two public listening sessions on November 8 and 16. Interagency Tribal consultation sessions will take place on October 26 and 28, 2021. Information on how to submit a comment or recommendation or join the listening sessions is available online.


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