Coastal Issues | Special Area Plans | Activities

What Is OCRM Doing to Encourage SAMPs?

Through its coastal management efforts, the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (OCRM) is helping to encourage special area management plans in a number of ways.

Coastal Zone Management Programs

The Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (OCRM) provides funding through the National Coastal Zone Management Program to state and territorial coastal management programs to develop and implement Special Area Management Plans (SAMPs). When requested and where appropriate, OCRM assists with the development and implementation of the plans by participating in the development process and/or by providing technical assistance throughout the process.  Also, OCRM staff facilitates and sponsors workshops and regional meeting sessions addressing special area management planning. For example, OCRM participated in the Federal review team for the development of Rhode Island SAMP and provided guidance throughout the process on how the plan could be incorporated into its federally approved coastal management program.

Through the Coastal Zone Enhancement Program’s five-year assessments and strategies, states and territories have incentives to enhance their coastal management programs in a wide array of coastal issues of national significance, including special area management plans. The Coastal Zone Enhancement Program provides state programs with an opportunity to develop and update special area management plans.

Coral Reef Conservation Program

With support from NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP), OCRM supports State and Territory efforts to develop and implement networks of marine protected areas (MPAs) in the seven U.S. jurisdictions with significant coral reef resources: American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Hawaii, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. OCRM is also working to build local management capacity for MPAs in these seven states and territories by providing trainings on developing special area management plans for the MPA, assessing MPA effectiveness and involving local communities in MPA management. For example, OCRM and the Coral Program have provided the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands with an MPA specialist who is working to develop a network of MPAs. In conjunction with the NOAA Fisheries Pacific Islands Regional Office, OCRM is also supporting American Samoa’s efforts to develop and manage a system of MPAs.

Marine Protected Areas Center

The National Marine Protected Areas Center of OCRM focuses on forging partnerships and serving as a resource for information about the nation’s marine protected areas (MPAs). The MPA Center is working closely with the Department of the Interior and other federal agencies, states, commonwealths, territories, and tribes to develop a comprehensive, effective national system of MPAs.  Information on MPAs can be found at

OCRM is a partner in the Pacific Islands MPA Community (PIMPAC), a network of MPA managers from Pacific Island jurisdictions for the sharing of information, expertise and experience to build capacity throughout the region to support the effective development and implementation of MPAs.

National Estuarine Research Reserves

The Estuarine Reserves Division of OCRM supports a network of protected areas established for long-term research, education and stewardship. This partnership program between NOAA and the coastal states protects more than 1.3 million acres of estuarine land and water, which provides essential habitat for wildlife, offers educational opportunities for students, teachers and the public, and serves as living laboratories for scientists.  

Every Reserve has a management plan that provides a vision and framework to guide reserve activities; enables the reserves and NOAA to track progress and realize opportunities for growth, and presents reserve goals, objectives, and strategies for meeting the goals to constituents. Reserves are increasingly confronted with complex questions regarding new uses in or near Reserves that may or may not be compatible with the reserve system’s mission.  A thoughtful and comprehensive management plan provides a foundation for addressing the challenges of protecting and managing a reserve. Updating a management plan allows reserve staff to think ahead, be creative, set bold and challenging goals, and develop a way to measure achievement toward their goals and objectives.