The Coastal an Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP) was created by Congress in 2002 to address the need for long-term protection of significant coastal and estuarine resources. This initiative enables states to permanently protect coastal and estuarine lands by providing matching funds for community-based projects to acquire property from willing sellers (either fee simple or through conservation easements). Lands acquired through the program are owned by state or local agencies, and in this manner, the CELCP shares similarities with the Federal Forest Legacy Program in which Hawai'i also participates. The award recipient holds title or interest in property purchased under the CELCP in perpetuity, and public access is insured in the absence of legitimate environmental protection or public safety concerns.
The Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program is intended to be a competitive process, and in order to qualify for funding, individual coastal states must meet specific eligibility requirements outlined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Under the NOAA requirements CELCP funds can only be used for the acquisition of properties, or interests in properties, from willing sellers, and the terms and conditions of the acquisition must ensure that the property will be administered for conservation purposes in perpetuity.
Additionally, proposed projects must meet the following eligibility requirements to be considered for CELCP funding:
- be located in a coastal or estuarine area included within an approved Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Plan,
- meet criteria outlined in the national program guidelines;
- match federal program funds with non-federal funds at a ratio of 1:1
- be held in public or approved private ownership (fee simple or conservation easements) to insure conservation in perpetuity, and
- provide access to the general public as appropriate and consistent with protection of project lands
NOAA also provides a list of ineligible uses of CELCP funds. The federal share of program funds cannot be used for:
- funding long-term operations, maintenance or management of land,
- construction of buildings, boat launches, docks, shoreline armoring, or other facilities,
- acquisitions that completely restrict access to specific persons (e.g. non-residents),
- acquisitions to comply with habitat mitigation requirements resulting from agency, corporate or individual actions,
- the primary purpose of enforcing fish, wildlife, or other regulations, or
- acquisitions for active recreation, such as sports facilities, water parks or playgrounds.