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Trustee Role

Natural Resources Held in Trust

NOAA's Damage Assessment Remediation and Restoration Program acts on behalf of the public as a trustee to manage, protect, and restore coastal and marine resources. The public trust doctrine, a principle of property law that dates to Roman times, establishes the right of public benefits over private interests. Public lands, waters, and living resources are held in trust for the benefit of all people and future generations. Since the 1970s, Congress has enacted a number of federal statutes to protect and manage the natural resources that belong to all Americans. Congress directed the President to designate natural resource trustees to protect and restore these trust resources when they are threatened or harmed by oil or hazardous substance releases. Stewardship of the nation's natural resources is shared among several Federal agencies, states, and tribal trustees.

NOAA's trust resources include—

  • Commercial and recreational fisheries,
  • Fish, such as salmon, that spawn in fresh water and migrate to the sea,
  • Endangered and threatened marine species,
  • Marine mammals,
  • Wetlands, mangroves, seagrass beds, coral reefs, and other coastal habitats,
  • All resources associated with National Marine Sanctuaries and National Estuarine Research Reserves.

When possible, NOAA works cooperatively with the parties responsible for the injury. By working with responsible parties and co-trustees to collect data, conduct assessments and identify restoration projects, NOAA avoids lengthy litigation and achieves restoration of injured resources more efficiently.

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Revised: Wednesday, 13-Feb-2013
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