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Questions and Answers About the Proposed Sanctuary Nomination Process

Site Nomination Process

Learn more about the site nomination process in this short video. Click the image for the YouTube video or download the video here. (1.5 GB)

NOAA is seeking public input on the proposed criteria and process the agency would use to evaluate whether a proposed site could be considered for designation as a national marine sanctuary. After NOAA receives and analyzes all comments, it will publish a final rule in the Federal Register with the revised criteria and guidelines for the process to nominate new sites.

Why is NOAA taking this step?

NOAA considers national marine sanctuaries an integral part of the agency's mission to support safe, healthy and resilient oceans. Furthermore, because of their unique protected status, NOAA considers national marine sanctuaries places where other core elements of the agency's mission, such as supporting resilient coastal communities and climate adaptation, can be effectively addressed.

How can I get involved in this process?

  • The first step of the nomination process is for the public to submit comments to NOAA on the criteria and process the agency would use to evaluate sites as national marine sanctuaries.

  • Comments may be submitted electronically via the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Click the "Comment Now!" icon, complete the required fields and enter or attach your comments.

  • Comments can also be submitted by mail to: Matt Brookhart, Chief, Policy & Planning Division, Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, 1305 East West Highway, 11th floor, Silver Spring, MD 20910.

What is the deadline for submitting comments?

The deadline is August 27, 2013.

What happened to the previous Site Evaluation List?

The Site Evaluation List (SEL) was deactivated in 1995 to allow the ONMS to focus resources on management of the existing sanctuaries. Since then, several individuals and entities, including members of Congress, state officials, tribes, non-governmental organizations and others have inquired about designating a national marine sanctuary in different coastal communities.

Can sites on the old list be renominated?

Yes, sites on the old SEL may be renominated as part of the new sanctuary nomination process. However, nomination of an area for consideration as a national marine sanctuary does not equate to designation.

How long will it take to set up a new site nomination process?

Reestablishment of the sanctuary nomination process is anticipated to take at least six months.

How long before a new sanctuary is designated?

Once the nomination criteria and process are finalized, NOAA will begin accepting nominations for areas of the marine and Great Lakes environments for possible designation as a national marine sanctuary. Designation of a new sanctuary is a separate process with extensive public involvement and comment that typically takes years to complete.

Does NOAA already know what sanctuaries it wants to designate? Will public input really lead to new designations of the proposals received?

At this time, NOAA is solely seeking public input on the criteria and process it would use to evaluate sites as new national marine sanctuaries. NOAA is not currently seeking to designate sites, nor does it presently know what sites it would consider for designation.

Will re-establishing the public process for nominating new sites affect uses of the marine environment (e.g., commercial/recreational fishing, energy development)? Won't this lead to even more closures of fishing areas/bans on oil drilling/etc.?

Re-establishing the public process to nominate new sanctuaries will have no impact on your ability to use the marine environment, since reestablishment only allows coalitions of communities to identify areas of the marine environment that might be eligible for, and might benefit from, sanctuary designation.

Where can I get additional information about the proposed rule?

Read the full Re-establishing the Sanctuary Nomination Process Federal Register notice.

Read the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries' press release.


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