The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Offers a Vision for a Healthy Gulf of Mexico Watershed
September 24, 2013
- email: Linda Walker, U.S. Department of Interior Senior Advisor for Gulf Restoration
- email: Stacy Shelton, Public Affairs Specialist, phone: (404) 679-7290 (o), (678) 575-7796 (m)
- Photos available on: Flickr
Oiled brown pelican awaits cleaning at the Theodore Bird Rehabilitation Center in Theodore, AL.
Photo: Tom MacKenzie - USFWS
Restoring the Gulf of Mexico following years of degradation and in the wake of the nation’s largest oil spill will require a large-scale, long-term, multi-partner effort.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released its Vision for a Healthy Gulf of Mexico Watershed, intended to catalyze conversation across borders with many state, federal, non-governmental and private partners to help focus our collective restoration efforts.
- The Gulf of Mexico watershed is critically important to the health and vitality of our nation’s natural and economic resources; the Gulf produces more than half of America’s crude oil and natural gas, supports the economically important seafood and recreation industries, and the Mississippi Flyway, which is home to 40 percent of all North American ducks, geese and shorebirds.
- More than half the continental U.S. drains to the Gulf. Sustaining a healthy Gulf will require the conservation community to address the causes of water pollution, dead zones, invasive species and fragmented wildlife habitat in the upper portion of the watershed. To do otherwise risks our national investment along the Gulf Coast.
- The level of success collectively achieved in restoring the Gulf of Mexico and its watershed will be directly related to how well partners coordinate and complement conservation efforts.
The Service’s Vision is predicated on three principles:
“Restoring the Gulf of Mexico is not just a Gulf challenge,” said Director Dan Ashe. “It is a challenge for our nation, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service envisions a national solution.”
The Vision identifies eight science-based conservation strategies (or how we want to work with our partners) and 16 conservation focal areas (or where we want to work first with our partners). The Service’s goal is to find common priorities to more easily facilitate collaboration with our partners. The Service has already begun sharing the Vision with our partners and stakeholders in the Gulf of Mexico watershed. A follow-up document, due out later this year, will offer more details and specific project recommendations with partner input.
- Support water-sharing efforts in the Coastal Bend of Texas, to account for the needs of people and natural resources;
- Restore barrier island habitat on the Chandeleur Islands off the coast of Louisiana to provide storm protection for coastal communities and nesting habitat for brown pelicans and other colonial waterbirds;
- Conserve land and waters through a variety of voluntary actions including conservation easements, to improve water quality and benefit fish and wildlife; and
- Keep working lands working by partnering with farmers and other private landowners in the Upper Mississippi Watershed. Using voluntary and existing tools and programs, together we can restore native grasses and prairie hydrology to improve habitat for grassland birds and reduce the amount of nutrients flowing to the Gulf.
Examples of high priority conservation actions identified in the Vision are:
Few of the recommended actions can be accomplished by one partner acting alone. They are non-regulatory, voluntary actions intended to maximize conservation efforts.
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov/southeast. Connect with us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/usfwssoutheast, follow our tweets at www.twitter.com/usfwssoutheast, watch our YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usfws, and download photos from our Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwssoutheast.