Feedback switching and the evolution of U.S. coastal management

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Date of Original Version



Feedbacks occur when advocates engage to clarify the implementation of a policy innovation such as the requirement that federal activities be consistent with objectives of state coastal management plans. Discrete policy feedbacks include advocacy, litigation, appeals of decisions as well as other activities inserted into policy implementation by interests or government agencies acting in their behalf. Feedback analysis is applied to the time after the passage of the 1972 U.S. Coastal Zone Management Act. Conflicts after passage of the law resulted in a negative feedback in the form of a Supreme Court decision in 1984 and a subsequent positive feedback through the 1990 revision of the law effectively reversing the Court decision. New insights documented here suggest that feedback switching, wherein old disputes are moved to new arenas, provides the greatest opportunity for overcoming negative feedbacks that could diminish or eliminate the policy innovation. Furthermore observing feedbacks through time and across multiple policy spaces as demonstrated here provides a robust interpretation of policy evolution from a new perspective. This analysis demonstrates how feedbacks convert a voluntary state program into one with authority over certain federal actions. These findings will be important for other areas of coastal policy and, more broadly, policy evolution in general.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Marine Policy