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Loggerhead hatchling meets ocean. Photo by Becky Skiba, USFWS.

Next Steps for a Healthy Gulf of Mexico Watershed


From the farm fields of the Upper Midwest and Plains to the Gulf Coast, the Service maintains an impressive field presence and long-standing history of Gulf watershed restoration. The urgency of our work in the Gulf and our leadership responsibilities increased dramatically after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Billions of dollars in settlement funds, Clean Water Act penalties and NRDAR damages have been, and will continue to be, directed to Gulf restoration. The Service will be directly involved on a daily basis at the local, regional and national levels, working with our partners to implement restoration and conservation projects for natural resources.

Based on our mission to restore and protect the nation’s trust resources on behalf of the American people, the Service is a key federal agency that can strategically connect restoration efforts throughout the entire Gulf watershed. Working together, we can merge existing conservation issues with proposed projects to help guide and prioritize restoration and meet mutual restoration goals.

Neither the Gulf ecosystem nor the state of science is static. Just as the Service’s Vision lays the groundwork for Next Steps, we will continue with this iterative and partnership-driven approach as the Gulf changes and new information becomes available. We intend to refine the Next Steps and biological targets found in this document as science and restoration move forward and as we receive input from our partners. Our evaluations and recommendations, however, will remain based on the original need (emphasized in Vision) to maintain a Gulf-wide perspective. A national investment toward a sustainable Gulf will be at risk fail to take a holistic, watershed-based approach.

Through conversations informed by the contents in documents such as the Service’s Vision and Next Steps, we can help in the early planning stages of projects to evaluate the risks and benefits of proposed activities to species and their habitats, and contribute the best available science and expertise to assist in the decision-making process regarding the allocation of funds.

Together, our collaborative, science-based efforts will result in conservation landscapes that help reduce the impacts from tropical storms and flood events, allow for mitigation and adaptation to the impacts of climate change and sea-level rise, sustain healthy populations of fish and wildlife, support robust economies, keep working lands working, and preserve the Gulf’s rich cultural heritage. Together, we will achieve a Healthy Gulf of Mexico Watershed.

The Service and its partners — sharing an understanding of Gulf restoration challenges, and developing collaborative solutions to these challenges.

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