Legal Issues Affecting Blue Carbon Projects on Publicly-Owned Coastal Wetlands
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Legal Issues Affecting Blue Carbon Projects on Publicly-Owned Coastal Wetlands

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  • Description:
    Coastal wetlands play an important role in sequestering atmospheric carbon, but these ecosystems are under threat from sea level rise, land use conversion, and other causes. Restoration projects in coastal wetlands can provide a range of benefits for habitat and ecosystems, including by increasing sequestration of “blue carbon.” Coastal wetland restoration projects that effectively sequester carbon and meet the requirements of the voluntary carbon market can generate tradeable carbon offsets, which have a monetary value and can be used to finance all or part of the restoration needed to generate them. Blue carbon offsets thus represent a promising tool to promote effective restoration and maintenance projects on threatened and degraded coastal wetlands. This study identifies key legal authorities and principles that affect whether and how government land management agencies can participate in blue carbon offset projects. While the principles identified here are applicable to any jurisdiction, this analysis focuses on a selection of federal, state, and tribal agencies and jurisdictions as case studies. These include the federal National Park Service and Fish and Wildlife Service; the states of Florida, Massachusetts, Washington, and Louisiana; and the Tulalip Tribes of Washington. Legal research applicable to these agencies and jurisdictions identified two primary categories of legal challenges: Title and Property Rights; and Legal Authority.

    This study is a product of the Marine Affairs Institute at Roger Williams University School of Law and the Rhode Island Sea Grant Legal Program. The authors of this study were Read Porter, Senior Staff Attorney; Cody Katter, Rhode Island Sea Grant Law Fellow; and Cory Lee, Rhode Island Sea Grant Law Fellow. All errors and omissions are the responsibility of the Marine Affairs Institute and the authors. This study is provided only for informational and educational purposes and is not legal advice. This study was prepared by Restore America’s Estuaries and the Marine Affairs Institute using Federal funds under awards NA16NMF4630113 from NOAA, U.S. Department of Commerce. The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NOAA or the U.S. Department of Commerce. These environmental data and related items of information have not been formally disseminated by NOAA, and do not represent and should not be construed to represent any agency determination, view, or policy.

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