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A light brown bird with dark markings on it's back and a long curved beak.
Information icon Long-billed curlew. Photo by Woody Woodrow, USFWS.

Next Steps for a Healthy Gulf of Mexico Watershed

Target Species

We have chosen to identify target species for each focal area. These target species are federal trust resource species on which the Service is currently concentrating its science and on-the-ground restoration efforts to strategically address conservation and restoration needs. Often, these species are among the most recognizable and iconic within the focal area due to their status as a flagship, keystone, indicator or other surrogacy approach. Although these species were identified by collating the plans and priorities of a wide range of partners within each focal area (through the Biological Objectives Project previously described), we recognize that they may not reflect everyone’s opinion about the most important species within each area. They do, however, capture a significant contribution of the Service’s restoration efforts for particular resources. Similarly, while these species are the focus of current efforts and immediate next steps, there may be other species that emerge as conservation issues evolve, the landscape changes and we learn more. We believe that by identifying target species and biological objectives we can more clearly connect restoration actions with desired outcomes. Lastly, while many of the proposed actions identified throughout the document specifically target trust resource species, we recognize and acknowledge how implementation of these actions will be advantageous to other species as well. Our approach to Gulf restoration fundamentally includes crosscutting awareness of collateral benefits, and we strive to find restoration actions that will help a wide range of species.

The Deepwater Horizon spill affected sea turtles throughout the Gulf in all phases of life including that of nesting, small juvenile, large juvenile and adult. Sea turtles are long-lived, migrate extensively and occupy multiple habitats over the course of their lives. All these factors are considered in restoration planning and require the use of a portfolio of restoration approaches to address all species and life stages that were injured by the spill. Approaches to sea turtle restoration include restoring coastal habitats, enhancing sea turtle hatchling productivity, and rehabilitating and conserving nesting beach habitat and robust monitoring.

For continuity, we organized the following material based on the focal areas found in the Service’s Vision document. Most of the species targets we highlight, however, reflect the “Biological Planning Units” used in the Biological Objectives Project and which are based on boundaries previously identified in other partnership efforts. Elsewhere in the upper watershed, target species were derived from other federal planning processes, as noted in their respective sections.

For a complete list of species referenced in Next Steps, refer to Appendix: Scientific Names of Species Cited.

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