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Conservation Policy Development

The Office of National Marine Sanctuaries has developed conservation policy or permit guidance for the following resource protection issues:

The ONMS issued Artificial Reef Permitting Guidelines in July 2003. These guidelines are currently being revised and updated by ONMS staff in order to improve them based on more recent experiences with artificial reef projects in national marine sanctuaries.

The ONMS answers the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) related to alternative energy and oil and gas policy decisions in national marine sanctuaries. Download the ONMS Alternative Energy & Oil and Gas FAQ document here.

Q: What is conservation policy?
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A: Conservation policy is a standing decision made to provide direction and/or guidance for conservation management actions for the NMSP.


Q: Who establishes NMSP conservation policy?
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A: The Director of the National Marine Sanctuary Program issues policy statements that describe the issue, provide background on NMSP involvement in the issue, and provide a conservation policy statement to guide NMSP actions regarding that issue.


Q: How is NMSP conservation policy developed?
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A: NMSP conservation policy is developed through the process outlined in the NMSP conservation policy development framework, described in the chart below. The following text provides more details on each step of the framework.

conservation chart
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Description of the Conservation Policy Development Framework

1. Identify Issue

Description of Action: Issues are brought to NMSP attention via management plan review (i.e., public scoping), petitions for regulation from the public and/or permit applications, as well as more informal means of keeping track of issues relevant to sanctuaries. Issues may be raised internally (within NMSP) or externally.

Responsible Staff: Conservation Policy and Planning Branch (CPPB) Chief, Policy Team Lead

2. Raise Issue to National Level

Description of Action: The Executive Team, composed of NMSP leadership, discusses the issue and whether it is national in scope and needs to be addressed at that level.

Responsible Staff: CPPB Chief, Policy Team Lead, Executive Team

3. Conduct Initial Analysis

Description of Action: If the course of action can be determined without additional information, NMSP makes a decision for action and issues policy statements. If more information is needed to make a decision, an Action Plan is developed.

Responsible Staff: CPPB Chief, Policy Team Lead, Executive Team

4. Develop Action Plan

Description of Action: A conservation policy working group is created, consisting of qualified staff from HQ and regions/sites with an HQ Issue Team Lead. The action plan describes the actions needed (additional research, discussion with stakeholders or other agencies, and/or others) in order to develop policy statements.

Responsible Staff: CPPB Chief, Policy Team Lead, Regional and Site Superintendents, Issue Working Group

5. Develop White Paper

Description of Action: All available information is reviewed, synthesized, and analyzed. The issue is defined and described in more detail.

Responsible Staff: Issue Working Group

6. Develop Options Paper

Description of Action: A recommendation is chosen. A set of options are identified and described.

Responsible Staff: Issue Working Group

7. Conduct ET Review

Description of Action: The recommended options are presented to Executive Team for input and review.

Responsible Staff: Executive Team, presented by Policy Team Lead, Issue Working Group Lead, or CPPB Chief.

8. Conduct Director's Review

Description of Action: The recommended options are presented to the Office Director and incorporate his/her input.

Responsible Staff: Director, presented by Policy Team Lead, Issue Working Group Lead, or CPPB Chief.

9. Develop policy statements

Description of Action: A 1-2 page summary of the issue and recommended action is prepared.

Responsible Staff: Issue Working Group

10. Post Statement Online

Description of Action: policy statements are posted online. Post options paper on inter- or intranet.

Responsible Staff: Issue Working Group, Web Designer

11. Implement Approved Option

Description of Action: The approved option is implemented; such options may include: regulations, permitting guidelines, further research, issue monitoring.

Responsible Staff: Variable (regulatory working group, site staff, enforcement partners)

12. Post Issue Statement Online

Description of Action: New or updated policy statements will be posted on the NMSP Web site.

Responsible Staff: Policy Team Lead, Issue Working Group Lead


Q: How are issues selected for processing through the NMSP conservation policy framework?
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A: At least once a year, a listing of issues emerging from Management Plan Reviews, NMSP permits, petitions submitted to the NMSP, or other applicable NMSP management activities is prepared. This list describes each issue and provides a summary of what is known about the issue to date. The list is then reviewed and evaluated by the NMSP Executive Team, which prioritizes the issues to be processed through the framework.


Q: Who is involved in the NMSP Executive Team?
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A: The NMSP Executive Team includes the NMSP Director, Deputy Director, Senior Policy Advisors, Chief of Staff, Regional Superintendents, and Branch Chiefs.


Q: How is NMSP conservation policy approved?
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A: Conservation policy documents are prepared by CPPB and vetted through a variety of review bodies, potentially including working groups (both internal and external), Sanctuary Advisory Councils, Sanctuary Superintendents, and the NMSP Executive Team. After reviews, the Conservation Policy and Planning Branch will make a recommendation to the Director. The Director makes the final policy decision.


Q: May the public participate in policy-making?
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A: Depending on the nature of the policy issue, the NMSP may seek public comment either through Sanctuary Advisory Councils or more formally through a Federal Register notice. Additionally, actions resulting from a policy decision, such as regulations, may also provide for or require an opportunity for public comment.


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