American and European ICZM schools

In densely populated countries traditionally there is a conflict regarding the use scarce resources. Historically, governments try to regulate the use of the resources. Especially the use of space has been subject to regulations for many centuries. In countries with a absolute monarchy or comparable systems, usually the ruler decided who had the right to use certain areas and who did not have such rights. In countries with feudal systems, usually the noble classes where allowed to use certain areas (which could vary from hunting rights to mineral rights, but in many cases also the (partial) ownership of the harvests). In the densely populated democracies of western Europe in the last centuries a system of spatial planning has been developed in which, on a democratic basis, land use is determined. The basic philosophy is that certain resources cannot be owned by individuals, but should be used commonly. Eventually this has resulted in a quite detailed system of physical planning laws and regulations, together with the institutions to manage this planning process.
In the United States there has always been ample space. Also in the US the citizens have a more explicit sense of freedom, which includes that one has the full right to use his own property in the way one likes to use it. As long as space does not become a very scarce resource this system works quite well.

However, because of population growth, and extra pressure on the coastal areas, also in the US the space became a scarce resource. And consequently there became a need for planning the use of resources, mainly in coastal areas. Together with the consciousness of the vulnerability of the environment, a movement in the US started to plan the use of (coastal) spatial resources. In fact this development was quite identical to the spatial planning in Europe, but restricted to the coast. This development resulted in the US Coastal Zone Management Act in 1972, which basically is a “skeleton law” and instructs States to set up a CZM authority.
In subsequent years quite some work was done on how such an authority should be developed, and how to implement planning. Because of this, Coastal Zone Management in the United States has a strong focus on institutional arrangements.

In Europe there was not such a need for institutional arrangements, because basically all institutions needed were already present. What was missing in Europe was a good understanding how the different functions interacts in the coastal zone. Co-operation between the various institutions involved is also a weak point. Because of this, in Europe CZM is much more focussed on a systems approach.