What is your vision of “America the Beautiful?” Is it kayaking a local river, enjoying a day at a beach or lake with family and friends, or exploring a park when traveling to a new place?
As part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s America the Beautiful initiative, NOAA reached out to Americans across the country for input on how to use our existing authorities to address threats from climate change, inequitable access to the outdoors, and the disappearance of nature.
NOAA sought public input through roundtable discussions, meetings with managing partners and advisory bodies, Tribal consultations, public listening sessions, and a Federal Register notice. In total, NOAA received comments from more than 34,000 individuals and organizations.
Throughout these discussions, there was an emphasis on the importance of outreach and communication with States, Tribes, managing partners, stakeholders, and the public. NOAA is committed to raising the bar on how we communicate about this important priority, and we look forward to sharing news around America the Beautiful as we implement stakeholder feedback.
Here’s a look at how NOAA is putting input into action to advance conservation and restoration priorities across six early focus areas.
We heard that NOAA should restore and enhance protections for special places along our coasts and oceans. These shared successes reflect our commitment to protecting coastal and marine areas.
- Restored the protections of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. President Biden reinstated the prohibition on commercial fishing on October 8, 2021. As co-managers of the monument, NOAA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are working together to develop a management plan and implementing regulations.
- Designated Wisconsin Shipwreck Coast National Marine Sanctuary. On August 16, 2021, NOAA announced the completion of the designation of a new national marine sanctuary in Lake Michigan that spans 962 square miles and encompasses 36 known shipwrecks, 21 of which are on the National Register of Historic Places, and nearly 60 potentially undiscovered shipwrecks. In addition to offering additional protection to this nationally significant collection of shipwrecks, the new sanctuary is fostering partnerships with education and research partners, and increasing opportunities for recreation, tourism, and economic development.
- Initiated the designation of Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary. In November 2021, NOAA announced initial steps to potentially designate a new national marine sanctuary off the central California coast to recognize Chumash tribal history, conserve the area’s rich biodiversity, and create new opportunities for research and economic development, including recreation and tourism. The process for designating the proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary will involve many opportunities for public and stakeholder involvement, and NOAA will work closely with local tribes and tribal organizations throughout the designation process.
- Initiated the designation of Hudson Canyon National Marine Sanctuary. In June 2022, NOAA announced initial steps to potentially designate a new national marine sanctuary for Hudson Canyon, the largest submarine canyon along the United States Atlantic coast– an area that provides habitat for a range of protected and sensitive species including sperm whales, sea turtles, and deep sea corals. The nomination of the area proposes landscape-scale conservation of these highly productive waters, and expanded opportunities for research, monitoring, and education. The process for designating the proposed Hudson Canyon National Marine Sanctuary will involve many opportunities for public and stakeholder involvement.
- Designated the Connecticut National Estuarine Research Reserve. NOAA and the State of Connecticut designated the Connecticut National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) in January 2022, conserving important habitat types that were not represented in the reserve system and protecting diverse lands and seascapes for many iconic coastal species found in Long Island Sound. The Connecticut NERR is the 30th in the NERR System.
We heard that NOAA should meaningfully engage with partners to make sure conservation and restoration priorities work for people and the planet. NOAA’s current collaborations reflect our commitment to ensuring everyone has a seat at the table as we continue work on this important initiative.
- Increasing NOAA engagement in Urban Waters Federal Partnership. The Urban Waters Federal Partnership reconnects urban communities, particularly those that are economically distressed, with their surrounding waterways by improving coordination among participating federal agencies and community partner organizations at 20 locations. The partnership brings together community-led revitalization efforts to improve water systems and promotes economic, environmental and social benefits of clean water and waterways. NOAA is exploring ways to expand involvement in the Partnership to multiple NOAA programs and offices, with emphasis on improving community resilience to climate change and addressing environmental justice issues.
- Supporting job creation and training through GulfCorps and VetCorps. NOAA directly supports job creation and critical ecosystem restoration by providing on-the-ground job training for young adults and veterans. In Fiscal Year 2023, NOAA will launch the second cadre of GulfCorps, where participants will support restoration projects in the Gulf of Mexico that benefit healthy fisheries, marine life, and coastal communities. NOAA also administers– and looks forward to expanding– the NOAA Veteran and Conservation Corps (VetCorps) program and works alongside partners to provide veterans with hands-on work experience and opportunities to conduct fishery habitat restoration, mapping, field surveys, water quality monitoring, and other environmental projects on the West Coast.
- Establishing a Federal Advisory Committee on area-based marine protection, conservation, and restoration. NOAA is working to establish the Marine and Coastal Area-based Management Federal Advisory Committee to provide advice and recommendations to the NOAA Administrator on best practices for the science-based planning and management of area-based marine protection, conservation, and restoration. This advisory body will be critical to providing stakeholder involvement from diverse communities and supporting the development of a national stewardship ethic – elements that are crucial for successfully protecting ocean and Great Lakes resources, advancing ocean and Great Lakes conservation, and building strong coastal economies. NOAA plans to release a call for membership applications in early fall 2022.
NOAA heard that we should better serve communities of all kinds. As we look to the future, we’re focusing on ways to improve NOAA’s service delivery to help community partners become resilient, climate-ready, and prosperous.
- Develop a National Strategy for Seafood Resilience and Competitiveness. NOAA Fisheries is developing a suite of support actions, constituting the National Strategy for Seafood Resilience and Competitiveness. The strategy is intended to address various challenges, including climate change impacts, faced by the seafood industry, focusing on actions that NOAA can accomplish in the next five years given current capabilities. A draft of the strategy will be made available for public comment via the Federal Register later this year.
- Update NOAA’s resources for tribal engagement and input. In order to build better relationships with Indigenous peoples and inform agency decisions, NOAA is currently updating our Tribal Consultation Handbook and Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) Guidance to encourage the inclusion of TEK in NOAA’s science and policy processes. The Handbook and TEK Guidance provide a foundation for NOAA’s tribal consultations and support of tribally led conservation efforts. Both are expected to be updated by Fall 2022.
- Implement the NOAA Fisheries Equity and Environmental Justice Policy. In an effort to increase coordination, communication, and engagement with underserved and underrepresented groups, including tribal communities, NOAA Fisheries developed a new NOAA Fisheries Equity and Environmental Justice Policy. The policy formalizes the agency’s commitment to advancing equity and environmental justice including equal treatment, opportunities, and environmental benefits for all people and communities while building on partnerships with underserved and underrepresented communities. NOAA Fisheries anticipates finalizing and implementing this policy in 2023.
We heard from many that communication materials would be useful, and NOAA is committed to helping you and your community join the journey to America the Beautiful! Visit the America the Beautiful web portal for regular updates and useful resources to support conservation and restoration in your community. Check out videos, FAQs, presentations, handouts, and more.