Our Future Gulf
Report outlines TNC's recommendations for the restoration of the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The Gulf of Mexico and its resources are the foundation of the economy of the entire region and are important to the nation’s economic well-being. The human communities surrounding the Gulf have a rich, colorful, and diverse history and range from large metropolitan areas like Houston, Tampa and New Orleans to smaller working waterfront settlements like Cedar Key, Florida and Bayou La Batre, Alabama. All of the Gulf ’s cultural, biological and economic diversity is, however, united by the hard fact that, despite its assets, the Gulf of Mexico region faces many challenges.
In recent years, despite the often-heroic efforts of government officials, non-profit organizations, businesses and engaged individuals, we have seen the condition of the Gulf and many of its bays, estuaries and tributary rivers continue to decline, jeopardizing the values the Gulf of Mexico provides to coastal communities and to the country as a whole.
An acute example of that decline was the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) Oil Spill in 2010 which caused both loss of human life and unprecedented damage to the environment. Now, however, resolution of the fines and damages resulting from that spill offers a unique opportunity to respond to the impacts of the spill itself and to address the Gulf ’s long-term problems.
We do not know of another instance where so much money has been guaranteed over the long term (15 years) for the restoration of a major ecosystem. The Nature Conservancy believes that, while we cannot put the Gulf ecosystem back to the way it once was, by investing the BP settlement money wisely and using it to leverage other public and private funds to restore the natural systems and features of the Gulf of Mexico, we can produce immense returns for the larger Gulf. We can also make the region’s communities and economies more resilient to ongoing stresses, such as storms and sea-level rise intensified by climate change.
“Our Future Gulf” focuses on the kinds of actions across the region and within specific watersheds that we believe will:
- Contribute to restoring the ecological and economic health of the Gulf as a whole
- Encourage cooperation across state and agency boundaries
- Create the foundation for long-term Gulf restoration
- Produce tangible and measurable results
“Our Future Gulf” does not recommend specific projects because we believe that projects are best advanced through selection processes now in place for the various Deepwater Horizon funding sources. We hope the proposals set out here, however, will help to advance the framework for the cooperative design and funding of projects that will work in concert to restore and save the overall Gulf ecosystem for its many benefits to people and nature.