MISSISSIPPI GULF COAST — The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, chaired by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa P. Jackson, has released for public review and feedback its comprehensive preliminary strategy for long-term ecosystem restoration.
The preliminary strategy is the first effort of its kind to be developed with the involvement of parties throughout the region, including the states, tribes, federal agencies, local governments and thousands of interested citizens and organizations. The plan strategy, which builds upon ongoing efforts underway in the Gulf Coast states includes specific steps for on-the-ground action and represents the Task Force’s commitment to putting Gulf coastal restoration on an equal footing with other national priorities.
One year ago, President Obama established the Task Force by executive order, in response to recommendations from a report by Secretary of the Navy and former Mississippi governor Ray Mabus, to continue the Administration’s ongoing commitment to the Gulf region. The group is made up of representatives from the five Gulf States and 11 federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, Council on Environmental Quality, Department of the
Interior, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Agriculture, Department of Justice, Department of Transportation, Office of Management and Budget, Office of Science and Technology Policy and Domestic Policy Council.
“Even before last year’s oil spill, the Gulf of Mexico endured decades of decline that threatened the environmental and economic health of this region. This strategy is designed to prepare the region for transitioning from a response to the spill into a long-term recovery that supports the vital ecosystem and the people who depend on it,” said Jackson.
Among the major initiatives with specific actions recommended by the preliminary strategy to protect and restore those natural resources are stopping the loss of wetlands, reducing the flow of nutrients into the Gulf and enhancing resiliency Among coastal communities.
Additionally, the Task Force will begin immediately reviewing existing policies, programs and regulations that are slowing down restoration progress, particularly in the habitat restoration area. The Task Force will also explore innovative ways to implement restoration, measure success and support the restoration with science.
Trudy D. Fisher, executive director of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, said, “The Task Force marked an unprecedented commitment at the federal and state levels to create a shared vision for a healthier Gulf Coast ecosystem. We are confident that the resulting strategy will set the stage for future cooperation and success. Mississippi will be a critical partner as the work continues.”
The Task Force will release the final version in December.