White House Receives Blueprint For Bringing Gulf of Mexico Back to Health

As Senators consider bill on oil spill penalties, conservationists urge lawmakers to invest fines in Gulf’s natural systems and communities that need them.

(Washington, DC—August 1, 2011) Leading conservation groups working across the Gulf of Mexico have submitted to the White House a blueprint for action that federal, state and local governments can take to restore the region’s threatened natural systems and to help communities that rely on the Gulf for survival.

The groups delivered their recommendations to the Presidential Task Force on Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration, which President Obama created last October by executive order. The task force is facing a one-year deadline this October to develop a comprehensive strategy “to effectively address the damage caused by the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, address the longstanding ecological decline, and begin moving toward a more resilient Gulf Coast ecosystem.”

The timing of the groups’ recommendations, entitled a Strategy for Restoring the Gulf of Mexico, is important. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is expected to soon vote on legislation that would provide funding to implement the Presidential Task Force’s restoration plans. The Senate bill, the RESTORE Gulf Coast States Act, would dedicate 80 percent of the oil spill fines to restoring the Gulf’s communities, economies and environments. Under current law, most of the fines will be used for general government spending, rather than being directed towards the Gulf.

The recommendations were submitted by The Nature Conservancy, the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies (Texas A&M) University-Corpus Christi, National Audubon Society, Ocean Conservancy, National Wildlife Federation, Environmental Defense Fund, and the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation. The Presidential Task Force will unveil their final plan for Gulf restoration on Oct. 5.

Among the recommendations included in the blueprint are:

Even before the oil spill, the Gulf of Mexico faced serious threats from neglect, overdevelopment, pollution, storms, climate change and alteration of the Mississippi River Delta that feeds into the Gulf. Yet the Gulf still is one of the most productive natural areas in the world:

The environmental groups that submitted the recommendations pledged to continue working with federal and state lawmakers to ensure action is taken immediately to ensure the Gulf’s productivity can be maintained and in many cases enhanced by bringing the region back to health.