In an effort to protect our nation's first ironclad, the Monitor was designated America's first national marine sanctuary on Jan. 30, 1975. Initial dives in the 1970s indicated the Monitor's iron hull, having been inundated with saltwater for over 100 years, was deteriorating at a faster rate than expected. Congress requested that NOAA develop a management plan to preserve and protect the historic shipwreck.
Management plans are sanctuary-specific planning and management documents used by all national marine sanctuaries. They identify immediate, mid-range and long-term challenges and opportunities, and develop a dedicated course for the future. A management plan describes regulations, boundaries, resource protection, research, and education programs that guide sanctuary operations. It specifies how a sanctuary should go about conserving, protecting, and enhancing its resources. The management plan is a blueprint for protecting a sanctuary's resources. The plan is created by managers, scientists, educators, the sanctuary advisory council, sanctuary user groups, and members of the public.
New challenges and opportunities emerge with time. For this reason, federal law requires periodic updating of sanctuary management plans. The current Monitor National Marine Sanctuary management plan was written in 1983. Since then, long-range plans and expedition operations manuals have been completed, but no other comprehensive management documents exist. The sanctuary has achieved many significant milestones since its designation, and a new management strategy was needed to guide the site's future direction.
The Monitor National Marine Sanctuary management plan review takes place through a well-proven community-based process that guarantees regular opportunities for the public and government agencies to share their knowledge, voice their opinions, and directly participate as active stewards of America's marine sanctuaries.
The present management plan process started with the release of two reports in 2008: The Condition Report and the State of the Sanctuary Report
Public scoping meetings were held in December 2008, and the collected public comments from those meeting are available for viewing.
During 2009 until 2011, the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council and associated working groups developed a series of strategies and action items that were drafted into a new Draft Management Plan. NOAA and the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries reviewed the Draft Management Plan, and it is now available for public comment.