The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service has announced the Gulf of Mexico Initiative, which will deliver up to $50 million in financial and easement assistance over three years in 16 priority watersheds.
Statement of Chris Canfield, National Audubon Society Vice President for the Gulf Coast and Mississippi Flyway:
“Audubon commends the Natural Resources Conservation Service for its new Gulf of Mexico Initiative, a noteworthy step forward in the administration’s commitment to restore the Gulf of Mexico. We are especially pleased that many of the places NRCS has chosen to work are recognized by the National Audubon Society as Important Bird Areas. We will continue to work with the service to achieve our mutual goals of conservation and restoration of priceless natural resources – so vital for people and wildlife alike – along America’s great Gulf Coast.”
The Gulf of Mexico Initiative is one step toward fulfilling the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force’s ecosystem restoration strategy, released last Monday. The strategy needs significant implementation funding to succeed, such as that provided by the RESTORE Act, under consideration by Congress this month. The RESTORE Act would dedicate 80 percent of penalties levied against BP and other parties responsible for last year’s oil disaster to restoring the Gulf Coast and Mississippi River Delta. The concept enjoys overwhelming bipartisan support nationwide, including 84 percent in Florida, according to a bipartisan poll released there yesterday.
The Mississippi River Delta, a key driver of Gulf of Mexico productivity, contributes tens of billions of dollars to the U.S. economy every year and supports millions of jobs.
Unfortunately, the delta and Louisiana lose one football field of land on average every hour, amounting to more than 16.5 square miles of land lost per year, mainly due to the leveeing and channelization of the Mississippi River and the construction of thousands of miles of channels and canals through the delta’s fragile wetlands.
Audubon and several partners recently launched a new website, www.MississippiRiverDelta.org, which features scientific information, public policy analysis, cultural and historical summaries, and Delta Dispatches, a news blog about restoration efforts in the Mississippi Delta.