Management Plan Frequently Asked Questions

A sanctuary condition report is a tool NOAA uses to assess the status and trends of national marine sanctuary resources. Condition reports provide a standardized summary of resources in national marine sanctuaries, drivers and pressures on those resources, and current conditions and trends for resources and ecosystem services. They describe existing management responses to the pressures that threaten the integrity of the marine environment.

Condition reports include information on the status and trends of water quality, habitat, living resources, and maritime archaeological resources, and the human activities that affect them. They present responses to a standardized set of questions. The reports also rate ecosystem service status and trends. A scale from good to poor is used to rate resource and ecosystem service status, and timelines used for comparison vary from topic to topic. Trends in the status of resources and ecosystem services are generally based on observed changes in status since the previous condition report, unless otherwise specified.

Condition reports document the condition of sanctuary resources and ecosystem services following consultation between sanctuary staff and stakeholders and review of the best available information and data. The reports help determine if the sanctuaries are achieving their resource protection and improvement goals as reflected in NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries performance measures.

Condition reports are structured on Driver-Pressure-State-Ecosystem Services-Response (DPSER) framework. This is an expanded framework from the first generation of sanctuary condition reports (2007-2013) which were structured on a Pressure-State-Response (PSR) framework.

Beginning in 2019, sanctuary condition reports are now structured on a framework that describes the interactions between driving societal forces (Drivers), resulting threats (Pressures), resource condition (State), derived benefits (Ecosystem services), and management responses (Response). This DPSER framework recognizes that human activities are ultimately linked to demographic, economic, social, and/or institutional values and conditions (collectively called drivers). Changes in these drivers affect the nature and level of pressures placed on both natural and heritage resources, which can alter their condition (e.g., the quality of natural resources or aesthetic value). This affects the availability of benefits that humans receive from the resources (ecosystem services), which prompts targeted management responses intended to prevent, reduce, or mitigate the undesirable changes.

Yes, the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, in consultation with other NOAA legal and program staff, has determined that the condition reports are considered "Influential Scientific Information," subject to the review requirements of the White House Office of Management and Budget. More information on this is available on the Office of the Chief Information Officer website.

A management plan is a road map that: (1) guides site programming and management actions toward achievement of the sanctuary’s goals; and (2) informs sanctuary constituents, including the general public, about the sanctuary and planned actions by NOAA and its partners for the next five to 10 years. The management plan contains information about the sanctuary’s priority management issues and actions proposed to address them, as well as staffing and administration. The sanctuary’s current management plan was published in 2010.

Over time, all management plans should be reviewed and updated to adapt to changing conditions and needs. Since the adoption of the current management plan in 2010, new partners, technologies, and opportunities have emerged, as have new resource management issues. An evaluation of what has been implemented and what else the site needs will allow site managers and partners to shift efforts to new priorities.

Condition Report. The process began with the release of a new condition report to inform that management plan update process.

Notice of Intent. Publication in the Federal Register of a notice of intent (NOI) announces the start of the management plan review process. The notice of intent, published on February 7, 2020, provides information about public scoping meetings and opens a public scoping comment period that extends through April 10, 2020.

Public Scoping. Public scoping meetings will be held in Boston, Gloucester, and Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts. These meetings will provide the public with an opportunity to learn about the sanctuary and to suggest issues and strategies to be included within the scope of sanctuary management considerations and priorities over the next five to 10 years. Comments will be recorded at the meetings, and may also be submitted in writing. The public comment period will extend from February 7 through April 10, 2020.

Issue Identification and Action Plan Development. After the public scoping period, sanctuary staff will review all comments and work with the sanctuary advisory council and subject matter experts to identify and prioritize issues to be addressed in the management plan. Tailored action plans will be developed to address these priority issues, and will form the foundation of a draft management plan.

Draft Environmental Review and Draft Management Plan. A draft management plan will be prepared, which will contain a series of action plans to address resource protection and general management of the sanctuary. Accompanying the draft management plan will be an environmental analysis of the activities proposed with the plan. This will be guided by the National Environmental Policy Act and take the form of a draft environmental assessment (DEA) or draft environmental impact statement (DEIS). In addition, if sanctuary regulatory changes are proposed, a proposed rule will be developed.

Public Review and Comment. The draft management plan, DEA, or DEIS, and proposed rule (if needed for any regulatory changes) will then be released for public review and comment, and public hearings will be held to invite commenting. After the close of the public comment period, sanctuary staff will review comments and make any necessary changes to plans and environmental analyses.

Final Environmental Review and Final Management Plan.  To complete the process, a final management plan, final environmental assessment, or final environmental impact statement, and final rule (if needed for any regulation changes) will be released.

The entire process is estimated to take two to three years, starting with the initial scoping period expected through April 10, 2020. Priority topics for the revised management plan will be selected in mid-2020. Action plan development is expected to occur through 2020. A draft management plan and a corresponding National Environmental Policy Act compliance document will be released in 2021, and final documents are expected by the following year

At the start of a management plan review, the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries holds public meetings to receive input from sanctuary users, interest groups, government agencies and other members of the public on resource management issues. Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary staff will hold scoping meetings on March 11, 2020 in Boston, MA, on March 12, 2020 in Gloucester, MA, and on March 18, 2020 in Buzzards Bay, MA. The input received at these meetings will help define the range of issues to be addressed during the management plan review process.

Members of the public may submit comments during the scoping period by any of the following methods:

Electronic Submission:
Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to and enter the docket number NOAA–NOS–2020-0003, click the "Comment Now!" icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.

NOAA Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary
Attn: Management Plan Revision
175 Edward Foster Road
Scituate, MA 02066

In person at a public scoping meetings:

  • March 11, New England Aquarium, Boston
  • March 12, Maritime Gloucester, Gloucester
  • March 18, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, Buzzards Bay

Comments sent by any other method or to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NOAA. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. NOAA will accept anonymous comments (enter "N/A" in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous).

In preparing for public scoping, sanctuary staff reviewed pressures placed upon sanctuary resources and considered the potential need for additional or modified approaches to sanctuary regulations. Staff have not identified the need for any changes to Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary regulations at this time. However, regulatory changes may be considered based on a review of public scoping comments and, if pursued by NOAA, would be presented for public review with the publication of a proposed rulemaking.

NOAA is not at this time considering changing the sanctuary boundaries. Public scoping comments on this issue will be considered, and, if any Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary boundary changes are pursued by NOAA, they will be presented for public review with the publication of a proposed rulemaking.