About the Gulf Restoration Team
The Service is uniquely positioned to be a strong partner in the restoration of the Gulf of Mexico and its watershed. Our mission — to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people — compels us to address the Gulf’s many challenges. We are also obligated to do so as the steward of America’s National Wildlife Refuges; as the lead federal agency for the protection of migratory birds and anadromous fish (i.e. fish that divide their lives between freshwater and the ocean); as the co-lead for the recovery of federally threatened and endangered species, including marine mammals; and as a member of the larger environmental protection community responsible for responding to oil spills and hazardous substance releases.
Gulf restoration funds
For decades, countless stressors have been altering and degrading the Gulf ecosystem. The environmental situation became exponentially worse when the Deepwater Horizon mobile drilling unit exploded on April 20, 2010, discharging millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf over 87 days. The settlements and penalties resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill are bringing an unprecedented level of funding — more than $20 billion — to a large-scale, effort to restore Gulf regions that will last more than two decades. This work will be one of the most complex and comprehensive conservation efforts ever undertaken, requiring coordination among the five Gulf states, multiple federal agencies, and hundreds of local governments, non-governmental organizations and citizens.
The Service is playing a key role, both directly and in advisory capacities, to steer restoration funds to projects and activities that restore the Gulf of Mexico watershed – both the natural resources and the services they provide. Below are information and links to resources related to Gulf restoration programs established following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
- The Service is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior (The Department), which is designated as the Lead Administrative Trustee on the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) Trustee Council. As a member of the Trustee Council, the Department works together with the other three federal and five Gulf Coast state trustees to plan and implement ecosystem-level restoration to natural resources (and the services they provide) injured by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The Service has led a large part of the injury assessment since 2010, and since 2012 has led the Trustee Council’s’ effort to work with the public to develop and finalize restoration plans. Additional information can be found at the Department’s Deepwater Horizon NRDA website.
- The 2012 Resources and Ecosystem Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act (RESTORE Act) created the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (RESTORE Council) and the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund that will receive 80 percent of the civil and administrative penalties paid to the federal government under the Clean Water Act by the parties found responsible for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The Council, a federal entity composed of the principles of six federal agencies (including the Department) and the governors of the five Gulf states, is responsible for administering 60 percent of the total funding. The Service is one of four Department bureaus that play significant roles in advising on restoration priorities and in working collaboratively with other RESTORE Council members to achieve restoration and conservation goals. The Service also has a specific consultation role with regard to the NOAA RESTORE Act Science Program, which is funded by 2.5% of the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund.
- On January 29, 2013, British Petroleum (BP) pled guilty to 14 criminal counts stemming from its actions related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, including one misdemeanor count of violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Under the plea agreement, BP agreed to pay $100 million to the the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund. This fund’s grants are facilitated by the Service through its Migratory Bird Program North American Conservation Wetlands Act (NAWCA) activities.
- Under a plea agreement reached on January 29, 2013, BP and another party responsible for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill (Transocean) agreed to pay a total of $2.544 billion to the to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund to fund projects benefiting the natural resources of the Gulf Coast that were impacted. The Service has a specific consultation role for this fund.