Swimming in crystal clear water, eating delicious seafood, fishing, boating, strolling the beach or simply sitting and looking out at the view: these are activities that Gulf Coast residents and visitors cherish.
More than 5 million people live along Florida’s Gulf coast and care deeply about keeping this backyard treasure healthy for their children.
So does The Nature Conservancy.
- Help seafood and tourism businesses thrive.
- Protect the military mission.
- Plan for development.
- Keep forests healthy for industry and recreation.
- Improve water quality.
- Preserve outstanding Gulf beaches.
Conserving our Gulf natural resources through targeted conservation, management and restoration will accomplish these results. Rich natural forest and wetland areas are important sources of clean fresh water and air. Returning these areas to their natural, healthy conditions will benefit us all. Strong coastal communities are directly tied to a healthy environment -- healthy habitats sustain a healthy economy.
The Conservancy’s work, and that of many others, makes a strong case for the value and viability of conserving and protecting our Gulf. We have the opportunity of a lifetime to work together and create a legacy of prosperity for our children, grandchildren and all future Gulf Coast residents. Through partnership and focus, and your donations that pay our staff, we will succeed. We can work together now to secure our future tomorrow.
Our Gulf projects include:
Oyster reefs may just be the hardest working natural systems in the Gulf of Mexico. They provide a critical foundation of life for fish and shellfish, they filter pollutants in our water and protect our communities from erosion and the damaging effects of storms. But our oyster reefs are in trouble. The Nature Conservancy has a wealth of expertise on oyster habitat restoration— implementing projects across the United States, including right here in Florida on the Atlantic Coast since 2006. Now, we are applying that knowledge along Florida’s Gulf coast, identifying sites from Charlotte Harbor to Pensacola that are ripe for restoration. Florida’s projects, together with similar restoration efforts in Alabama, Mississippi and Texas, represent a holistic approach to restoring the Gulf’s environment and economy.
Community Watershed Planning
The Nature Conservancy facilitated community-based watershed planning in six regions of the Gulf coast. Collaborating with diverse stakeholders representing agencies, community leaders and citizens, the plans identify the most pressing environmental issues affecting each watershed and a suite of solutions that begin to address the issues, irrespective of political jurisdiction. The plans are now being used to advance Gulf restoration and protection, including creation of the first new Estuary Program in the Gulf to be located in Florida’s Panhandle region. The six community-based watershed plans can be downloaded here:
• Perdido Bay
• Pensacola Bay
• Choctawhatchee Bay
• St Andrew/St Joe Bays
• Apalachicola to St Marks
• Springs Coast
Protected Uplands and Rivers
Restoring the Gulf will also require working upstream in our rivers and forests. Unfortunately, access to rivers is increasingly limited for many species of fish and the federally endangered Florida manatee that needs access to the Gulf’s rivers, streams and bays to reach their spawning areas and warm water refuges that are essential to their survival. from dams, increased sedimentation, and overgrowth from invasive exotic plants. Without addressing the upstream sources of nutrients and sediment polluting the Gulf, we will never be successful in restoring this critical resource.
Improved Water Quality
Oyster reefs and saltmarshes are the foundation of recreational and commercial fisheries as well as vital habitat for many bird species. These “living shorelines” provide critical nursery habitat for numerous birds, fish and shellfish, filter millions of gallons of water per day and provide the vista that we Gulf Coast residents cherish. Successful restoration will involve:
• Building partnerships to implement Living Shoreline projects
• Repair dirt roads and gullies that erode clay and sand into our waters
• Remove exotic invasive plants that clog our flow and choke out native life
• Improve stormwater systems to reduce the nutrients and other pollutants entering our waters
• Restore and protect the wetlands and forests that provide critical buffers and filters for our waterbodies.
Healthy reefs, wetlands and barrier islands are our first line of defense to slow down and absorb storm surges and blunt the force of high winds during storms and hurricanes. If these natural areas continue to be lost or damaged, more than 24 million people living along the entire Gulf could be subjected to more frequent and severe flooding.
• Create critical shoreline habitat to protect against sea level rise
• Raise awareness of the natural protection Living Shorelines provide over traditional seawalls and partner with marine contractors such that they begin offering this solution to homeowners and developments
• Smart planning is also a better investment than costly emergency response and cleanup after disaster strikes.
Scientists have transplanted more than 10,000 nursery-grown staghorn and elkhorn corals to degraded reefs in Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the largest marine restoration project of its kind. Experts hope that the transplanted young corals will thrive and reproduce, helping to recover populations of these two threatened species. The Conservancy grows threatened corals in eight nurseries to be transplanted to reefs.