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High stakes in new ocean and coastal policy development

Part 1: Remember the days when we guys would push the gas pedal to the floor and “burn rubber” when the light turned green? It would draw lots of attention, but we were often trying to get somewhere too fast.

Similarly, the White House has been screeching its tires since last June 12 when President Obama created an Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force and charged it with developing a new national policy that “ensures protection, maintenance, and restoration of oceans, our coasts and the Great Lakes.” The Task Force was directed to issue an Interim Report by September and, further, to develop a recommended framework for “improved stewardship, and effective coastal and marine spatial planning” by Dec. 9. Now, that timetable gives new meaning to “burn rubber!”

Whether this process aimed at creating a new paradigm for managing our coastal and marine areas could be best served by taking it slower is debatable. What’s not is that the Task Force defines Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning as “a comprehensive, adaptive, integrated, ecosystem-based and transparent spatial planning process, based on sound science, for analyzing current and anticipated uses of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes areas.” Geez! -- can you say, ocean zoning?

There is no doubt those who assert that our nation’s ocean policy has been long adrift may have a point. After all, on the federal level, our oceans and coasts are reportedly governed by more than 140 laws and 20 agencies, each with different, and in some cases conflicting, goals and mandates. By any definition, that’s a bureaucratic mess! An overarching national policy that could streamline things is a goal worthy of time and effort. Moreover, everyone should favor sustainable uses of our oceans and the Great Lakes for activities like recreational boating in all its forms.

That said, however, one can easily foresee extended conflicts, disputed priorities, agency turf wars, environmentalists vs. users, regional vs local battles, winners and losers and more as every interest pushes to keep from being squeezed out or marginalized.

Haven’t heard about all this before? Not surprising. The media is preoccupied with partisan political stories these days. But, as is often the case, NMMA has been taking the lead for the boating industry since the start. Specifically, Mathew Dunn and the Washington staff submitted initial industry comments on the Presidential Memo announcing the Task Force in July. This was followed by more comments when the Interim Report came out. Finally, most extensively, commented were again submitted just prior to the closing of the latest comment period that ended last week. In addition, NMMA has partnered with nine other allied boating and fishing organizations to address this ongoing process. But, in spite of all that, it’s likely there will be a long road ahead for us on this one.

If just reading this much gives you a feeling that the stakes could be very high for our industry, you’re right. The issues are already complex -- too much so to cover in one short blog. That is why I plan to tell you more about this in Part 2 next Tuesday here at Dealer Outlook.?

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