ENR Center Tackles Ecosystem-Based Management in Oregon

By Alexandra Hoffman

The Environmental and Natural Resources Law Center (ENR) and Ocean and Coastal Law Center were recently awarded a research grant by the Oregon Sea Grant to fund a two-year interdisciplinary research project titled “Implementing EBM: Connecting Caretakers of the Oregon Coast with Transformative and Practical Legal Tools.” The research work will be conducted as part of the ENR’s interdisciplinary research project, the Oceans, Coasts, and Watersheds Project, and will be led by faculty co-leader Professor Richard Hildreth. The grant provides funding to support faculty and two law student fellows. 

“I want to thank Oregon Sea Grant for supporting this important research work,” says Hildreth. “‘Implementing EBM’ will continue and build upon the long legacy of ocean and coastal work at Oregon Law.”

Oregon Sea Grant (OSG) is one of 33 state programs within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Sea Grant College Program. Through an integrated program of research, outreach, and education, OSG helps people understand, rationally use, and conserve marine and coastal resources. 

Ecosystem-based management is an environmental strategy that recognizes and considers the full array of interconnected interactions within an ecosystem, including human activities and development. Successfully implementing EBM is a complex goal because it requires managing diverse stressors that involve Oregon coast multiple decision-makers, necessitating coordination among federal, state, and local jurisdictions, as well as the active involvement of the local community. It also requires an understanding of state, local, federal, and even international law. Rather than focusing only on individual laws that influence mere portions of an ecosystem, true implementation of EBM must explore the important interplay between jurisdictions and substantive areas.

The project will occur in three phases. Phase I will evaluate and summarize current EBM law and  policy in Oregon. Phase II will explore EBM implementation in the context of energy development, including siting of renewable wind and wave energy facilities in state and federal waters, exportation of nonrenewable fossil fuels from Oregon coastal ports, and effects of the US Department of the Interior’s Oil and Gas Leasing Plan. Finally, Phase III will analyze EBM in the context of fisheries management and health, including management decisions made by the West Coast Fisheries Management Council and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, addressing ocean acidification in Oregon waters, and integration of EBM in Oregon coastal fresh and marine-based waters.

The project will culminate in the production of a comprehensive legal guide to implementing EBM in Oregon. The guide will be made available online and presented to various stakeholders and environmental decision-makers along the Oregon coast in a series of public meetings. For more information, please visit seagrant.oregonstate.edu/research/ecosystem-based-management-legal.

Alexandra Hoffman is a second-year law student at the University of Oregon School of Law and an Oregon Sea Grant fellow in ENR’s Oceans, Coasts, and Watersheds Project.