03 • 08 • 2017

The Future of Coastal Management? The White House Takes Aim at NOAA

In this volatile political climate it's easy to become inured to the ongoing assault on environmental protections. Each day seems to brings more bad news for our nation's public lands and waters. That said, the latest news from the White House should stop every ocean lover dead in their tracks. 

According to a memo obtained by the Washington Post, the Trump Administration is seeking major cuts to the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the lead federal agency responsible for managing our nation's ocean and coasts, as well as monitoring weather and climate. The proposed cuts run deep and would strike at numerous programs that benefit all Americans.

In total, the administration is proposing a cut of nearly $1 billion, representing a 17% decrease to the agency's operating budget. While many of the specific details have yet to be provided, the proposal would wholly eliminate funding for coastal management, estuary reserves and coastal resilience - programs that go to the heart of Surfrider's mission. The proposal also targets the agency's satellite programs and research that help provide your daily weather (and surf) forecast and monitor the effects of climate change.

In light of this sobering proposal, it's worth reviewing the enormous benefits that NOAA provides as a federal agency. These go well beyond environmental protections (important as they may be) and impact our nation's safety, security, and economic well-being. Below is a summary of just some of NOAA's functions and benefits:

  • Managing our nation's coasts in partnership with states, tribes, and communities to protect these vital resources for public use.
  • Providing weather forecasts and related data that serve the needs of millions of people every day.
  • Researching the effects of climate change so we can better understand the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on our planet.
  • Ensuring sustainable fisheries that support jobs and help keep our seafood safe. 
  • Protecting marine ecosystems through a variety of programs including National Marine Sanctuaries. 
  • Collaborating with partners to conduct research that improves our understanding of the marine environment.
  • Supporting community efforts to adapt to the effects of climate change including sea level rise and coastal flooding.
  • Addressing plastic pollution through research, education, and marine debris removal. 

Fortunately, any budget cuts to NOAA will ultimately need to be approved by Congress as part of the federal budget for 2018. This means that all of us who support and benefit from the agency's efforts can play an important role in defending NOAA's work by contacting our federal representatives (see below). 

Moreover, it's notable that the same week the Trump Administration's plans for NOAA have come to light, the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative released a report: Ocean Action Agenda: Supporting Regional Ocean Economies and Ecosystems. In stark contrast to the plans of the White House, the bipartisan report calls for our federal leaders to protect our nation's ocean and coasts through proactive efforts that will benefit both the environment and economy. You can access the interactive website here.

Take Action to Protect our Coasts!

Please call your Congressional Representatives in Washington D.C. and ask them to reject any budget proposals that will interfere with NOAA's ability to meet its mission. While you're at it, please also express support for the important work of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which is also a target of the Administration and Congress (more background here). Find your members' phone numbers here: Senate and House.