Sep 1, 1977
American Political Science Review
The problem of land management along the coastal shoreline is an important one for the American public, whose already extraordinary recreational demands on this limited space are expected to nearly triple by the turn of the century. "Shoreline for the Public" notes that the institutional mechanisms operating over the past three centuries to allocate scarce coastal resources among competing users have brought unchecked private development to America's coasts. Compounded by problems of pollution, erosion, and the increasing tendency of private owners to restrict public access, this trend has resulted in severe limitations on opportunities for public recreation.The Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 proclaims a national interest in the problem of decreasing public recreational space in the face of mushrooming demand. This study discusses the social significance of the problem, outlines the causes of coastal mismanagement in terms of the organization of economic and political activity, and examines in detail the legal issues pertinent to the formation of public policy. Included are analyses of the legal regimes governing public versus private rights in seashore areas, the judicial application of common-law principles to secure public recreational rights, shoreline acquisition, and the application of land-use controls to regulate shoreline development. The author concludes that a number of legal techniques "can" be made effective in preserving the seashore as a unique recreational resource for public use.While concentrating on the narrow land-sea strip, "Shoreline for the Public" raises larger issues facing environmental resource management. Decreasing open space for public recreation is prototypical of the complexity of coastal resource management issues. The problems cannot be solved solely by judicial activity but will require coherent and orderly long-range legislative and administrative management to make equitable and efficient choices among policy alternatives. Bringing public recreation, private use, and conservation into balance will require the application of new techniques at the interfaces between government and the courts, between government and the citizenry, and between different levels of government.