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Dowitchers are long-range migrants that use a distinctive sewing machine-like feeding action when foraging across the mud flats of the Gulf region. Photo by Woody Woodrow, USFWS.

Our Vision

In 2013, the Service released “Vision for a Healthy Gulf of Mexico Watershed” in order to articulate to partners and other stakeholders our approach to most effectively address the damage from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster as well as the loss of natural resources that occurred over the previous decades.

The Service’s “Vision for a Healthy Gulf of Mexico Watershed” (full document, PDF, 7.8 MB; overview document, PDF, 1.8 MB) sets the stage for a restoration approach that considers not only the Gulf Coast, but also the entire watershed that feeds the Gulf of Mexico. The document’s scope is deliberately broad rather than detailed and project-specific. In this way, it can better serve as a catalyst for discussions that will lead to better collaboration between the Service and others to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of our separate efforts. To facilitate the discussion, the Service’s “Vision for a Healthy Gulf of Mexico Watershed” identifies eight conservation strategies and 16 geographically based high-priority focal areas.

A US Fish and Wildlife Service employee in uniform wearing nylon gloves prods oil washed up on a beach with a stick.
Examining tar balls from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that washed ashore at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge in Alabama. Photo by Lillian Falco, USFWS.

Conservation strategies

The eight conservation strategies are to:

  • Use sound science;
  • Restore resources impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill;
  • Create a network of public and private conservation 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.

Focal areas

The 16 high-priority focal areas are: Laguna Madre and Rio Grande River Valley; 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; Panhandle Beaches; Panhandle Lands; Apalachicola River Watershed; Big Bend Watershed; Southwest Florida; Upper Mississippi River Watershed; Rainwater Basin; and Prairie Potholes.

A biologist in uniform carries a metal cage containing five ducks.
A USFWS biologist readies wood ducks and mallards for banding in the Prairie Pothole region. Photo by Tina Shaw, USFWS.

These conservation strategies and focal areas are meant to guide collaborative conservation planning and delivery for large-scale Gulf restoration with the states, local communities, other federal agencies and the entire conservation network to achieve the greatest and most immediate benefit to the public’s fish and wildlife resources. While the conservation needs of the Gulf of Mexico are daunting, collectively we have the potential to significantly advance Gulf restoration and provide ecological and economic benefits to the American people.

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