Duke, L.D. and Laakkonen, K., 0000. Managing for sandy coastal habitat in SW Florida: Institutional complexities hinder local agencies’ use of best practices.

In the United States, many kinds of management for environmental protection are largely vested in local agencies of municipalities but subject to federal- and state-level policies, regulations, restrictions, and guidelines. These policies commonly overlap, sometimes conflict, and in many cases leave gaps with no guidance for important management aspects. This research conducted a close textual analysis of local planning and management documents, including review of permits for specific projects undertaken in 2000–15, as well as detailed analysis of federal- and state-level policies. The objective was to investigate the interactions and limitations of the existing suite of local, state, and federal policies and rules affecting beach management in SW Florida for sea turtles and beach-nesting birds. The research approach was to assess the extent to which stated and adopted procedures conformed to the best available science in protecting beach habitats, particularly in the context of rising sea level and its potentially devastating impact on beach habitats. Findings show that major rules from two federal agencies (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) and two Florida State agencies (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Florida Department of Environmental Protection) have important influences. This research shows uneven and local protections that routinely do not incorporate practices known to be supported by best science, in some cases egregiously so. Local policies vary widely in guidance language and specific protections. Analysis of 35 permitted beach nourishment projects during 2000–15 showed several example projects with excellent habitat protections but a strong majority with few or none of the kinds of protection documented by scientific information to be best practices to protect sandy beach habitat. The articulated conceptual policy goals of federal and state agencies have had almost no penetration into localmunicipalities’ policies, guidelines, or procedures.

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