Gulf Restoration
Conserving the Nature of America

The Role of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Our Vision for a Healthy Gulf

The USFWS shield


The Service’s Vision for a Healthy Gulf of Mexico Watershed (full document, PDF, 7.8 MB - click here to download a shorter overview document, PDF, 1.8 MB) identifies eight conservation strategies (the how we want to work with our partners) and 16 conservation focal areas (the where we want to work with our partners).

The conservation strategies are to:

  • Use sound science;
  • Restore resources impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill;
  • Create a network of protected lands;
  • Restore wetland and aquatic ecosystems;
  • Conserve prairies and forests;
  • Protect and restore coastal strand, barrier island and estuarine island habitats;
  • Conserve working lands; and
  • Manage lands and waters for sustainable populations of fish and wildlife.

The conservation focal areas are, from west to east, are:

  • Laguna Madre and Lower Rio Grande River Valley;
  • Texas Coastal Bend;
  • Austin’s Woods and Prairies;
  • Chenier Plain;
  • Mississippi River Delta, Coastal Wetlands and Barrier Islands;
  • Atchafalaya River Basin;
  • Mississippi Alluvial Valley;
  • Northern Gulf Coast;
  • Alabama and Florida Panhandle Beaches;
  • Florida Panhandle;
  • Apalachicola River Watershed;
  • Big Bend Springs Conservation;
  • Southwest Florida;
  • Upper Mississippi River Watershed;
  • Rainwater Basin; and
  • Prairie Pothole Region.


Our Role

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 of Mexico’s most convoluted challenges. It is also our obligation as the steward of America’s national wildlife refuges, the lead federal agency for the protection of migratory birds and anadromous fish, and the colead for recovery of federally threatened and endangered species, including marine mammals.

The Service is also working with the states and others to proactively conserve hundreds more species in the Gulf region, many of which are fish, amphibians, and other aquatic species, in the hopes they will not require federal protection.

With 233 national wildlife refuges in the U.S.-based Gulf of Mexico watershed, the National Wildlife Refuge System is the backbone for a network of conservation lands dedicated to supporting fish and wildlife populations. Along the coast, the Service manages millions of acres on 45 national wildlife refuges from the Florida Keys to the horn of Texas.

Additionally, the Service has field and regional representation in all 31 states in the Gulf of Mexico watershed, crossing five Service regions in the Southeast, Southwest, Midwest, Mountain- Prairie, and Northeast. Throughout the watershed, the Service provides a combination of conservation planning and on-the-ground contributions through various programs such as our wildlife and sportfish restoration grants, refuge management, endangered species recovery work, environmental contaminants response, fisheries, migratory birds and law enforcement activities.

The Service understands that conserving habitat and maintaining functioning landscapes not only benefits fish and wildlife, it also benefits our society in the form of ecosystem services that support healthy and resilient communities and economies. The need for fresh water, storm protection, flood attenuation, climate change adaptation and mitigation, environmental education, fishing, hunting and other outdoor recreation, as well as other natural services are shared across communities and are essential for longterm resiliency.


A Timeline of our Involvement in Gulf Response and Restoration

How has the Fish and Wildlife Service been involved? Download this PDF timeline (4.8 MB)




Rolling sand dunes sprinkled with vegetation

Sand dunes on the Perdue Unit at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. Photo: USFWS

A bright orange butterfly on a yellow flower

A gulf fritillary pollinates at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. Photo: USFWS

A male and female pair of cinnamon teal on water

A pair of cinnamon teal at Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Photo: USFWS

Last updated: September 23, 2013