State Agency Role in Natural Resource Management

One of things that has surprised me the most, is the difficulty State agencies have in weighing all of the interests involved in authorizing activities off the coast. For my project particularly, there are several State agencies who have authority and expertise over key State resources that may be affected by an authorization of an activity. From working in the non-profit world, I was unaware of how many stakeholders are considered throughout the administrative process.

Marine Spatial Planning, is an interesting field, with several intersections of studies involved. From economics to marine sediment management, natural resource agencies are tasked with weighing each and every use and resource to determine whether certain projects can move forward. While this sounds pretty straight-forward, I have learned that this can become pretty tricky, very quickly.

Like many other coastal states, the Oregon Coastal Management Program (OCMP) follows the networked approach, which allows several agencies to have jurisdiction over marine resources located in State waters. This model allows for each agency to “flex” their expertise while also contributing to strategizing the State plan for coastal management. The Dept. of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) is tasked with ensuring that these needs are met throughout the State, which includes ensuring coastal management is integrated into several other agency work plans. For example, the Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) is tasked with managing the biological resources of the State, including resources found within Oregon’s territorial sea. The OCMP relies heavily on ODFW’s expertise in planning for activities in the territorial sea, and leverages their ability to analyze the effects of certain activities to those resources. In addition to speaking with experts in the agency, OCMP often communicates with the local communities to ensure that their concerns are heard, and responded to (in real time).

Some of the time, these concerns can be at odds with each other, and DLCD is tasked with making the ultimate decision, as to whether certain projects can move forward with the State’s approval.* This dichotomy has been pretty interesting to watch. Over time, I have realized that each of the agency employees have different ways of engaging with these audiences to ensure their voices are heard. For example, one of my mentors has a regular marine policy phone call with ODFW to hear any of these concerns informally. This ensures that the networked partner agency is apprised of potential agency actions, and has the time and space to respond in an unfiltered manner. Hearing these concerns, and coordinating with ODFW has developed into years of a healthy working relationship.

I think learning how to strike this balance has been a great lesson for me, and I hope to implement it as I continue to work in the marine natural resource management world!

*Under the Coastal Zone Management Act, States have the ability to review certain federal permits known to have reasonable foreseeable effects to State resources for compliance with State enforceable policies. While federal government, ultimately has discretion, the State plays a large role in ensuring these concerns are appropriately mitigated by the person pursuing the activity.

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One thought on “State Agency Role in Natural Resource Management

  1. Really enjoyed this summary. Always a good reminder that communication is vital to smooth professional relationships, and that we all engage with partners in our own, unique ways. Also that trust requires time to establish, which can be a challenge for a short-term position, like a fellowship. Do you have any tips to get up to speed as quickly as possible?

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