Communities Across the Gulf Coast are Calling for Restoration

This blog was written by Nicole Spade. Nicole is an AmeriCorps Vista for Mobile Baykeeper in Mobile, AL. She recently attended the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Task Force meeting in Galveston, Texas.

On Monday, I attended another meeting of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force (Task Force) in Galveston, Texas. President Obama, through an Executive Order, created the Task Force on October 5, 2010, in order to develop a strategy for long-term recovery of the Gulf Coast ecosystem following the Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster.

The meeting started with a few hours of education about Texas’s vision and priorities for Gulf Restoration and the history and science of the Gulf of Mexico in Texas. Having now lived in three of the Gulf Coast’s five states, I have been pleasantly surprised to see and learn how much each state depends on the Gulf of Mexico in slightly different capacities, but often, similar ways. For example, 30% of all tourism in Texas is directly related to the Gulf Coast. The states of Alabama and Mississippi are also heavily dependent on their coasts for jobs and tax revenues from tourism. While commercial fishing is the dominant industry of Coastal Louisiana, many Gulf Coast communities in Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Texas also rely on Gulf Coast fishing for their livelihoods.  Furthermore, the Gulf Coast collectively represents about 10% of the nation’s oil and gas supply, but more like 35% of its production.

As a native Texan, I was already somewhat familiar with some of the challenges facing the Texas Gulf Coast. At the meeting Monday, Task Force members and attendees had the opportunity to hear from a wide array of presenters, including representatives from Texas Parks and Wildlife, researchers from different branches of Texas A&M University, and other local and national nonprofits and government agencies. I was pleasantly surprised to see each of these individuals stand up in front of the Task Force and present its members with facts, statistics, personal stories, and compelling evidence about how important restoration of the Gulf of Mexico is to Texas’s people, health, livelihoods, and economy.

I’ve now heard communities from each of the five states speak up to ask leaders for a chance to be a part of decision making for their communities and for restoration of the Gulf of Mexico, a resource that they have always known was vital to the health of their home, as well as our entire country. In order to ensure that ecosystem restoration is achieved in an historic and impactful way for the Gulf of Mexico and Gulf Coast communities, we must continue to inform and engage leaders, such as the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, with one unified voice about how important this restoration could be for our communities, our health, our environment, and our economy.

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