Immediate Efforts Needed to Reverse Decades of Decline to Restore the Gulf

The Nature Conservancy's Brian McPeek, North America regional director, provided testimony before the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, on September 28, 2010.

ARLINGTON, VA | September 28, 2010

Testifying today at the 3rd meeting of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, The Nature Conservancy called for key actions that can be undertaken immediately to restore the Gulf’s health and productivity, which directly impacts the lives and livelihoods of 24 million Americans from Florida to Texas, who rely on a healthy and vibrant Gulf of Mexico.

“The future of the Gulf of Mexico is at stake,” said Brian McPeek, North American Regional Managing Director testifying on behalf of the Conservancy. “The Gulf tragedy has made it painfully clear just how closely linked healthy and vibrant human communities are to a healthy and resilient environment.”

Drawing on recommendations from the Conservancy’s “Gulf 20/20” report, McPeek noted that because of decades of degradation in the Gulf, merely cleaning up the spill will not be enough to save it and all the benefits — food, habitat, livelihoods, recreation, shelter — it provides. He outlined key actions that can begin to reverse the long years of damage and restore the natural infrastructure — the bays and estuaries, the rivers, coastal forests and reefs — that is the foundation of all life in the Gulf.

“We don’t have to start over – a new approach can be built on efforts that are working at the local, state and regional level,” said McPeek. “What is needed is a new, more accountable system of prioritization, coordination and leadership to truly advance long-term restoration in the Gulf of Mexico.”

The Conservancy emphasizes that it will be important to expand and accelerate conservation and restoration work on areas that were spared from the oil. Restoration planning and activities must include these places as well. Bays and estuaries with clean water, healthy oyster reefs and seagrass beds will be important lifelines for other parts of the Gulf as it struggles to heal itself from the oil.

The following are several of the recommendations offered by the Conservancy to the Commission:

  • Establish a “Gulf of Mexico Restoration Task Force” to create the agenda and coordinate the implementation of the many environmental restoration and protection programs being carried out by federal agencies, state and local governments, and organizations in the private sector.
  • Invest most of the Clean Water Act Fines from the BP Deepwater Horizon spill in long term Gulf of Mexico restoration; use the remainder of the fine money to establish a permanent trust fund for the Gulf of Mexico. 
  • Begin, expand and accelerate restoration in key bays, estuaries and rivers considered critical to the Gulf’s survival. Restoring estuaries helps to replenish damaged fisheries, putting fishermen back to work. Investments in a fraction of these “no regrets” places can serve as model demonstration sites to restore reefs, rebuild marshes and protect communities from storms and sea-level rise.
  • Invest in science and long-term monitoring and research to ensure that all of the restoration planned and completed add up to meaningful improvements in ecological functioning at a Gulf-wide scale. 
  • Establish an Ocean Trust Fund and provide full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which by statute is already supported by Outer Continental Shelf revenues.

To download the Conservancy’s full testimony and recommendations to the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, visit

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at

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Sandra Rodriguez

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