Posted on December 8, 2014 by Sarah Winter Whelan
In the past two months the Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body (RPB) has been working to move the region closer to integrated ocean and coastal management between the Mid-Atlantic states, the Shinnecock Indian Nation and the Federal Government, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, The Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Management, the U.S. Navy, and others.
At the end of October the Mid-Atlantic RPB held a public webinar on the release of several new documents for public review in advance of its next in person RPB meeting, next January 21-22, 2015 in New York City. The new materials include (1) an overview on the region’s Ocean Action Plan Options (what can we do together to make management efforts more collaborative), (2) a status on the region’s Ocean Assessment (what ARE the region’s ocean ecosystems and uses), and (3) an Interim Stakeholder Engagement Strategy (how do we engage the ocean users in the region). The RPB also just wrapped up a set of region-wide listening sessions (held in each Mid-Atlantic coastal state) where they first presented these new materials to the public.
Here were the great things about these outreach events:
* They Mid-Atlantic RPB is showing its earnestness in reaching out to stakeholders by prioritizing public engagement opportunities and the development of an actual proactive strategy to engage stakeholders;
* The RPB is also working to figure out how it connects to the region’s bays and estuaries through the regional ocean planning process; and
* The RPB has taken big steps toward identifying its goals and options for undertaking a regional ocean assessment as well as several options for how the region can ensure healthy ocean and coastal ecosystems and sustainable ocean uses.
Here are the things the RPB will hopefully continue its work on:
* The stakeholder engagement strategy is just that, a strategy. It is now time for the RPB to put real tangible activities into the mix as the RPB goes forward with fleshing out the Regional Ocean Action Plan, Regional Ocean Assessment and the work plan for completing these two major initiatives; and
* The RPB should continue to listen to stakeholders when they say one size does not fit all in stakeholder engagement. Having meetings with different stakeholders like coastal communities, those who recreate on the water – like surfers, as well as the region’s commercial and recreational fishing communities to hear their concerns and figure out the best ways to engage them that doesn’t always require them to take time off the water is an important example of meeting stakeholders where they are to ensure diverse voices, understanding and support for ocean planning.
To see all the comments received by the RPB on the status of the Regional Ocean Assessment, the Options for an Ocean Action Plan and the Interim Stakeholder Engagement Strategy, click HERE. Even though the “deadline” for comments has passed, the Mid-Atlantic RPB continues to take any comments submitted to MidAtlanticRPB [at] boem [dot] gov.
In conjunction with the stakeholder engagement effort, the Mid-Atlantic is also working to increase its tribal nation outreach and engagement efforts. Through the state-spearheaded Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Oceans (MARCO), the region will begin to “focus on facilitating a two-way dialogue between the tribes and MARCO regarding ocean planning activities in the region and ensuring that all tribes in the region have the opportunity to have a voice in the process.”
Stay tuned for more on these and other goings on in the Mid-Atlantic region in the new year when the RPB gears up for its next public meeting next month in New York City.