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What is coastal zone management?

Coastal zone management involves managing coastal areas to balance environmental, economic, human health, and human activities.

San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve

At the core of the Coastal Zone Management Act are two programs: the National Coastal Zone Management Program and the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS). The NERRS is a network of 29 protected areas, including the San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, established for long-term research, education and coastal stewardship.

The concept of coastal zone management is a relatively new one, emerging less than four decades ago from the need to tackle an array of interconnected problems associated with population growth and development along our nation’s coasts.

The Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) was passed in 1972 and provided a formal structure to address the challenges of continued growth in coastal areas. Administered by NOAA, the CZMA recognizes that ensuring access to clean water and healthy ecosystems that support a vibrant coastal economy requires effectively integrating science, technology, and public policy. The goals of the CZMA are to “preserve, protect, develop, enhance, and restore where possible, the coastal resources.”

One program under the CZMA, the National Coastal Zone Management Program, encourages coastal states and territories to work in partnership with the federal government to design and enforce local programs consistent with the CZMA and accompanying regulations. Today, 34 of the 35 eligible coastal and Great Lakes states and territories have entered into the voluntary partnership.

As a result of the Coastal Zone Management Act and the success of its programs, coastal communities are equipped to better address continued economic development of the coastal zone while accounting for natural resource management. This will ensure the health and stability of the coast, both environmentally and economically, into the long-term future.