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Some Questions Answered About
Management Plan Reviews

What is a National Marine Sanctuary?
Where is the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries located within NOAA?
What is a sanctuary management plan and why is it being updated?
What are the steps for the review?
What are scoping meetings and when were they be held?
What are action plans?
What will be incorporated in the draft and final management plans?
What kind of changes can I expect?
How will the public be involved?
How can I be involved?
Where can I get more information?

What is a National Marine Sanctuary?

The National Marine Sanctuaries embrace part of our collective riches as a nation. Within their protected waters, giant humpback whales feed, breed and calve their young, coral colonies flourish, and shipwrecks tell stories of our marine history. Sanctuary habitats include beautiful boulder reefs, lush kelp forests, extensive whale migration corridors and feeding grounds, spectacular deep-sea canyons, rippling sand waves, and intruiging underwater archaeological sites. Sanctuaries can provide a safe habitat for species close to extinction or protect historically significant shipwrecks. Ranging in size from less than one square mile to over 5,300 square miles, each sanctuary is a unique place needing special protections. Whether as natural classroom, research site, recreational or commercial vessel destination, marine sanctuaries represent many things to many people.

Where is the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries located within NOAA?

The National Marine Sanctuaries Program was recently elevated to Office status and is located within the National Ocean Service of NOAA. ONMS serves as the trustee for a system of thirteen national marine sanctuaries, encompassing 18,000 square miles of marine and Great Lakes waters from Massachusetts to American Samoa, from Lake Huron to the Gulf of Mexico, and one coral reef ecosystem reserve (Northwestern Hawaiian Islands). This ecosystem reserve is presently undergoing designation as a sanctuary. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Ocean Service has managed National Marine Sanctuaries since passage of the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act in 1972. Protecting sanctuary resources requires a great deal of planning, management, and cooperation between federal, state, and local officials. The Office of National Marine Sanctuaries works cooperatively with its partners and the public to balance enjoyment and use with long-term conservation. Increasing public awareness of our marine heritage, scientific research, monitoring, exploration, educational programs, and outreach are just a few of the ways the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries fulfills its mission to the American people. The office's staff members are ever mindful of their responsibility to protect America's ocean treasures for this and future generations.

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What is a sanctuary management plan and why is it being updated?

A sanctuary management plan is a site-specific planning and management document that describes the objectives, policies and activities for a sanctuary. Management plans generally outline regulatory goals, describe boundaries, identify staffing and budget needs, set priorities and performance measures for resource protection, research, and education programs. They also guide the development of future management activities.

The Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) is required by law to periodically review sanctuary management plans to ensure that sanctuary sites continue to best conserve, protect, and enhance their nationally significant living and cultural resources. Most plans date back to their original designation date and have not been updated. Recent scientific discoveries, advancements in managing marine resources, and new resource management issues may not be addressed in existing plans. The current management plan for the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary was released in July 1993.

What are the steps for the review?

As the ONMS reviews sanctuary management plans it relies on public input from both local and national communities. The process begins with the release of a "State of the Sanctuary" report that provides information to the public about the sanctuary, its accomplishments, and current resource management issues. The SBNMS report was published in the summer 2002 and is available on this website, on the ONMS website, or from the SBNMS office. The sanctuary then held a series of public scoping meetings in the Fall of 2002. A subsequent milestone in management plan review is the development of action plans and the preparation of a draft management plan. Formal public hearings on the draft plan will help staff revise the document into a final management plan, which, once approved, will outline the sanctuary's priorities for the next 5-10 years.

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What are scoping meetings and when were they held?

Sanctuary staff held public scoping meetings in regional communities during the Fall of 2002. These meetings allowed SBNMS users, members of the public, and agencies to comment on the sanctuary's management strategies and provide input on what issues and problems they saw as management priorities for the next five to ten years. Comments were also sent to the SBNMS through this website or in writing. Almost 20,000 comments were received by the sanctuary during the public comment period.

What are action plans?

After the scoping meetings, sanctuary staff members reviewed all comments and worked with the Sanctuary Advisory Council (SAC) and the public to prioritize issues for the management plan review. Twelve working groups to the SAC were established to develop tailored action plans that addressed priority issues. After review and approval, the SAC forwarded the Action Plans to sanctuary management. These action plans will form the foundation of the draft management plan.

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What will be incorporated in the draft and final management plans?

The revised draft management plan will contain a series of action plans that address resource protection and general management. They may also propose regulatory changes. SBNMS will take written comments and host a series of public hearings on the draft plans. A supporting environmental document, such as an Environmental Assessment or an Environmental Impact Statement, will be prepared to support and explain any changes. After the close of the public comment period, the ONMS will review comments and make necessary changes before issuing a final management plan.

What kind of changes can I expect?

Management plan review provides an opportunity for sanctuary staff and the public to shape the future direction and management of the site. The prioritization of scoping comments and the analyses and recommendations of the working groups and SAC will be reflected in the direction of the new plan.

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How will the public be involved?

Active and informed public participation is a key element of sanctuary management, particularly during management plan review. The ONMS recognizes the public as a key resource management partner and values its input in helping shape and manage marine sanctuaries. For over 30 years, the ONMS has engaged the public in helping create new sanctuaries, develop resource protection strategies, resolve multi-stakeholder issues (i.e., water quality, vessel traffic, and marine reserves), and more recently, to review existing management plans. Using the lessons learned from these experiences, the ONMS will help build community awareness of key site issues and actively engage user and interest groups, agencies, and the public in an open dialogue about how to best shape the future direction and management of the Stellwagen Bank Natiional Marine Sanctuary.

The public has had and will continue to have numerous opportunities to participate in management plan review, beginning with the scoping meetings and proceeding through development of the draft and final management plans. The ONMS will provide ample notice of each meeting through local media and this web site.

How can I be involved?

You can become involved in the SBNMS management plan review at several upcoming stages. Upon release of the draft management plan, the sanctuary and NOAA will solicit public comments through a series of public meetings and an official comment period. All materials received will be available for public review. Throughout the review process, you may also attend any of the SAC meetings held at various locations in the sanctuary region (most meetings are held in eastern Massachusetts). Meeting agendas are posted on the sanctuary's web site and all meetings are open to the public.

Where can I get more information?

For more information on the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary management plan review or to be placed on our mailing list, contact:

Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary
Management Plan Coordinator
175 Edward Foster Road
Scituate, MA 02066-4399
781-545-8026
e-mail: stellwagen@noaa.gov

To receive our new electronic newsletter, send your e-mail address to: SBnews@noaa.gov

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