Pelican in flight.
American white pelicans in Florida wetlands. American white pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) flying over Florida wetlands. © Kent Mason

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A Path Forward for the Gulf of Mexico

The Nature Conservancy releases recommendations for Gulf of Mexico restoration.

The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) Gulf of Mexico Program today released its recommendations for ongoing Gulf of Mexico restoration—Our Future Gulf 2.0. This document is an update of The Conservancy’s recommendations for actions to advance restoration of the Gulf of Mexico. First published in 2016, Our Future Gulf (OFG) is based on the extensive experience of TNC’s staff and volunteers working across the Gulf in TNC’s five state chapters, on our scientific studies of the Gulf’s natural systems, and on discussions and partnerships with many stakeholders.

Download Our Future Gulf 2.0

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“Gulf restoration is making good progress thanks to the leadership of government officials and the well-planned spending of Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill settlement money, but the Gulf faces significant challenges in our changing world,” said Bob Bendick, TNC’s Gulf of Mexico Program Director. “We have learned a lot over the last five years about what restoration strategies work most effectively, about the far-reaching impacts of climate change, and about the need to ensure that all communities benefit from restoration investments. We believe that our recommendations reflect both the progress that has been made and the problems that still confront the Gulf and its communities.”

Key points of emphasis in OFG 2.0 include:

  • Federal, state, and local agencies are making good progress in planning for and implementing Gulf restoration; many excellent restoration projects are already completed or underway with lessons for projects to come.
  • Climate change in the form of more frequent and intense tropical storms and rainfall events and increasing flows in the Mississippi River is affecting both the human and natural communities of the Gulf. Reinforcing natural features is a cost-effective means of making communities more resilient to storms.
  • Oysters have been a key element of the Gulf ecosystem, but oysters are in trouble across the region. Large scale oyster reef restoration is essential to restoring the health of the overall system.
  • Restoration should continue to be based on a watershed approach that includes addressing impacts to estuaries from tributary rivers and land-based activities.
  • Gulf communities are not all benefitting equally from Gulf restoration; we must reach out to the full diversity of people and communities to ensure their inclusion in the next iteration of Gulf restoration.

“Now, more than ten years after the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill disaster, we can see that the damage settlement has created a unique opportunity to conserve the future of one of Earth’s most important ecosystems for the benefit of people and the environment,” said Bendick. “We are grateful for and encouraged by the progress that is being made, hope that our recommendations are useful in continuing that progress, and look forward to working side by side with governments and other organizations and Gulf communities to ensure a bright and healthy future for this remarkable place.”

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries and territories: 38 by direct conservation impact and 34 through partners, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.