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NOAA Marks 40th Anniversary of the Coastal Zone Management Act

October 27, 2012
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The Coastal Zone Management Act federal-state partnership has increased public access to our coasts, protected and restored coastal habitat, and minimized the risk of coastal communities to coastal hazards. It has also helped coastal communities manage development to promote healthy economies and people, and reduced polluted runoff, resulting in safe, swimmable, and fishable coastal waters. Image Credit: Louis V. Cafiero, Office of Coastal and Ocean Resource Management

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October 27 marks the 40th anniversary of the landmark Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA), which began a new era in the U.S. and for NOAA by recognizing the importance of safeguarding our nation’s coasts, estuaries, and oceans.

The act, passed by Congress on October 27, 1972, is designed to preserve, protect, develop, enhance, and restore the nation’s coastal resources. The legislation led to NOAA  working with state partners to balance economic development and environmental conservation, ensuring future generations have access to our nation’s nearly 100,000 miles of shoreline.

“The programs, policies, innovative decision-making tools, and scientific study that followed CZMA have led to a better use of our coastal lands and waters,” said Margaret Davidson, acting director of NOAA’s  Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (OCRM), which was established as a result of the act. “America’s future depends on healthy and resilient coasts. The act remains one of the best legislative tools we have for coastal management and is a prime example of the value of federal-state partnerships.”

Two cornerstone national programs in OCRM were created through the CZMA to better understand and manage our coastal areas: the National Estuarine Research Reserve System,  a network of 28 areas representing different biogeographic regions of the United States that are protected for long-term research, water-quality monitoring, education and coastal stewardship; and the National Coastal Zone Management Program, a voluntary partnership between the federal government and U.S. coastal and Great Lake states and territories to address national coastal issues.

Over the past 40 years, OCRM has partnered with coastal and Great Lakes states and
territories to address critical coastal issues, and has invested more than $1 billion in federal funds, matched by state funding, to develop and implement 35 state coastal management programs. OCRM has also established and manages 28 estuarine research reserves which preserve more than 1.3 million acres of coastal habitat.

The CZMA federal-state partnership has increased public access to our coasts, protected and restored coastal habitat, and minimized the risk of coastal communities to coastal hazards. It has also helped coastal communities manage development to promote healthy economies and people, and reduced polluted runoff, resulting in safe, swimmable, and fishable coastal waters.

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America’s economic and environmental prosperity is directly linked to the health and resiliency of our coasts. It is projected that by 2020, approximately 39 percent of the U.S. population, over 133 million people, will live in coastal shoreline counties.

The U.S. coastal zone supports valuable coastal and ocean resources, including fisheries, marine mammals, minerals, oil, gas, and other energy resources, marine transportation, tourism, recreation and military operations. America’s coastal regions are economic engines that provide for 40 percent of all U.S. jobs and provide over $214 billion annually in leisure and hospitality jobs, according to the National Ocean Economics Program.

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