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Policy recommendations of the U.S. Commission on ocean policy : Is public input represented? Public Deposited

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  • This study analyzes public participation in nine regional hearings and six public meetings held by the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy (USCOP) from September 2001 to April 2003. While several researchers have examined whether certain public involvement methods are considered successful or fair, this study characterizes the participants in a public involvement process and examines whether they actually influenced the decision-makers' product. On May 20, 2004, the Commission released its "Preliminary Report," a document containing 200 draft recommendations addressing ocean and coastal policy and management. The Executive Summary of the Preliminary Report highlighted 12 "Critical Actions." Detailed comparisons between the Critical Actions and the public testimony offered at the 15 public meetings were conducted using content analysis for the topics of governance and living marine resources. Utilizing data from 461 testimonies offered by both panelists and public comment period speakers, as well as information gathered during semi-structured interviews with 11 of the 16 Commissioners, the study revealed that there is no clear indication that the testimony of the witnesses was the primary influence on the Commissioners. However, all Critical Actions received support from the public meeting participants on some level, with some receiving more endorsement than others. Public testimony in many instances helped to reinforce existing interests and views of the Commissioners. Commissioners were generally receptive to public involvement in their decision-making process, preferring panel presentations by experts over public comment sessions. Government employees were the primary witnesses during the hearings, with representatives of environmental organizations ranking second. Overall, the USCOP participation process was dominated by experts and people who worked on marine issues in some manner, as opposed to the general public.
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