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Flexible, collaborative, and meaningful? The case of the US coastal nonpoint pollution control program

Scott, Tyler A.
Journal of environmental planning and management 2018 v.61 no.2 pp. 272-290
citizen participation, compliance, forests, grants, land cover, nonpoint source pollution, pollution control, water pollution, wetlands
Flexibility and collaboration are a common prescription for complex, transboundary problems such as nonpoint source (NPS) water pollution. This paper examines the case of the United States Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program (CNPCP), under which all 28 coastal states must develop comprehensive NPS management programs. The CNPCP allows states to satisfy requirements using voluntary, non-regulatory measures, and grants considerable flexibility in terms of institutional coordination and public participation. Thus, it is unclear whether compliance – which is incentivized with Federal funds – should be associated with improved environmental outcomes. Using a remotely sensed land cover census of 800 coastal counties from 1996 to 2010, this paper tests whether compliant programs – and particular participation and coordination mechanisms – are associated with different rates of forest and wetlands conversion. Approved states are associated with decreased rates of forest and wetlands conversion, but minimal differences are found with respect to specific participation and coordination strategies.