Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the Service’s Vision for a Healthy Gulf of Mexico Watershed?
A: The Vision is a bird’s eye view of what the Service believes it will take to sustainably restore the Gulf of Mexico and its watershed. It is intended to be a catalyst for conversations with our many partners in the region who are also working to restore the Gulf, not only after the largest oil spill in our nation’s history, but also after many decades of changes resulting in degraded wetlands, forests, prairies, barrier islands and other ecologically and economically important ecosystems.
Q: Why did the Service develop the Vision?
A: The Service has a national responsibility to the public, our partners, the Gulf Coast’s natural resources, and citizens who call the Gulf watershed home to offer our best science-based recommendations to achieve a healthy Gulf of Mexico watershed. We are the lead federal agency responsible for fish and wildlife conservation that includes migratory birds, anadromous fish, threatened and endangered species on the land and in the air, rivers and coastal waters, and a network of 233 national wildlife refuges across the watershed.
We are in a unique position to help bring together a broad array of partners who – working together – can achieve unprecedented success. We also know we don’t have all the answers. We hope the Service’s Vision will help focus discussions with our partners on what’s needed to restore the Gulf, and how together we can make it happen. We believe that working collaboratively with the expertise available from a diverse group of partners and stakeholders, significant progress is possible.
Q: Why is the Service suggesting conservation actions in the upper portion of the watershed, in places like Iowa and Illinois?
A: The threats to the Gulf of Mexico and its coastline go well beyond the five Gulf States of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. With more than half the continental U.S. draining into the Gulf, water pollution, navigation system development, loss of floodplain functions, and hydrologic alteration have affected water quality, water quantity, sediment transport, and wildlife habitat connectivity throughout the watershed.
For example, a major threat to the recreational and commercial fish in the Gulf of Mexico is the influx of nitrogen from areas in the upper watershed. According to a 2008 report by the U.S. Geological Survey, the three states that provide the highest nitrogen load into the Gulf are Illinois, Iowa and Indiana. Nitrogen comes from a variety of sources in urban and rural environments, but the predominant source is agricultural runoff. This excess nitrogen has led to severe hypoxic conditions, or lack of oxygen, in Gulf waters several miles wide and more than 300 miles long from the Mississippi River Delta to Texas. These areas are devoid of life.
The Service believes a broader conversation will benefit Gulf restoration over the long term. A long-term, large-scale, watershed approach to conservation is important if we are to achieve a healthy Gulf of Mexico. A national investment toward a sustainable Gulf will be at risk if we all fail to address problems in the rest of the watershed.
Q: Why is my geographic area not included as one of the 16 conservation focal areas identified in the Vision?
This is the Service’s first attempt to prioritize those focal areas that are in most need of conservation action today. The needs identified in each focal area require immediate attention to reverse serious declines, or secure future protection.
Q: Can conservation focal areas be added in the future?
Yes. Please offer your suggestions to one of the Gulf Team members listed below. Future opportunities to add or adjust focal areas will be available in the iterative document titled Blueprint for a Healthy Gulf of Mexico Watershed, which is explained below.
Q: What are the next steps?
The Service has begun sharing this Vision document with partners and stakeholders across the Gulf watershed to start conversations about focusing our collective efforts to achieve the best results. With input from Service staff, their partners, and many stakeholders, we will be working on a follow-up document to the Vision titled a Blueprint for a Healthy Gulf of Mexico Watershed, which will offer recommendations about how and where high priority conservation objectives an be accomplished. The Blueprint will be available later this fall.
Q: Will the Service impose new regulations as a result of this Vision?
No. The high priority conservation actions proposed by the Service would be voluntary only and would take advantage of existing, non-regulatory conservation programs.
Q: Does the Vision result in land acquisition?
No. While the Service, through the Vision, does recommend working with willing landowners to achieve permanent conservation through the strategic use of voluntary easements and land acquisition, the Vision does not offer any specifics. Specific steps the Service might take to support Gulf-wide restoration will grow from our work and conversations with partners and stakeholders.
Q: I live within the Gulf of Mexico watershed. How does the Vision affect me?
It aims to chart a path for how our employees who live and work in the Gulf watershed can support natural resource restoration needs in a way that will bolster hunting, fishing and other wildlife-dependent recreation recognizing that many Gulf communities offer some of the nation’s best outdoor recreation. While the Vision may not affect you directly, these activities connect our communities economically, culturally, and recreationally. Your input and feedback is welcome.
Q: How does the Vision affect the use of restoration funds resulting from any civil or criminal settlements?
This Vision does not affect funding for Gulf restoration, the funding sources, or the recipients of such funds in any way. The Service is only one partner among many involved in restoring the Gulf, and it wants to contribute to broader restoration goals across the Gulf however it can.
Q: Where can I learn more about the Service’s work related to Gulf restoration?
To download a copy of the Service’s Vision and learn more about its work in the Gulf watershed, please click here: www.fws.gov/gulfrestoration/vision.html.
Q: How can I or my organization comment on or ask questions about the Service’s Vision?
The Service’s has a Gulf Team which led the development of the Vision. The entire team’s contact information is at the back of the document. Five of those team members are
Robert (Bob) Clevenstine
Last updated: September 23, 2013