Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is launching an innovative water and wildlife conservation effort along the Gulf Coast of the United States. This action is part of the Obama Administration's efforts through its Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force. The Task Force today released its final strategy for long term ecosystem restoration for the Gulf Coast.
"The Obama Administration is committed to ensuring our coasts are healthy and resilient," Vilsack said. "Helping agricultural producers voluntarily improve the health of their land will sustain and enhance the production of food and fiber, while also improving water quality upon which communities depend. This initiative also will benefit the estuaries, fisheries and wildlife so integral to jobs and the economy in the Gulf."
The new Gulf of Mexico Initiative will focus up to $50 million, over three years, in conservation assistance to farmers and ranchers in priority areas along seven major rivers that drain to the Gulf. All five states along the Gulf Coast are part of this effort, including Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Many communities and cities along these rivers--such as Pensacola, Mobile, Biloxi, and San Antonio--will benefit from the cleaner water, more abundant wildlife, and healthier fisheries produced by this project.
USDA will work with a team of local, state and federal partners to deliver this project. Through this effort, Gulf farmers and ranchers will invest in voluntary conservation to provide cleaner water and more abundant wildlife for their neighbors and communities.
NRCS and its conservation partners developed this initiative in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and President Obama's call to action to help restore the waters, shores and wildlife populations along the Gulf Coast. This effort incorporates what the public and communities have requested through their input into the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force Strategy to restore the Gulf Coast. This initiative is a perfect complement to the Task Force's first-of-its-kind strategy that was released today.
"The conservation partnership is taking proactive steps to improve the health of the Gulf of Mexico," said USDA Under Secretary Harris Sherman. "This initiative is a powerful example of how government can collaborate with private citizens, communities, and private organizations. Together, we can identify challenges, leverage each other's resources and capabilities, and make a difference for both the environment and our quality of life."
Sixteen priority watersheds in seven major river basins in five states are targeted for participation in the new Gulf of Mexico Initiative.
Alabama - Upper Fish River Watershed in the Weeks Bay (Fish River) River Basin
Alabama/Florida - Canoe Creek Watershed and Sandy Hollow-Pine Barren Creek Watershed in the Escambia River Basin
Florida - Little Pine Barren Creek Watershed in the Escambia River Basin
Florida -- Old Grassy Lake Watershed in the Middle Suwannee River Basin
Florida - Allon Lake Watershed in the Middle Suwannee River Basin
Florida - Blue Lake Watershed in the Middle Suwannee River Basin
Florida - Pickel Lake Watershed in the Middle Suwannee River Basin
Louisiana --Bayou Corne-Grand Bayou Watershed and Bayou St. Vincent-Little Grand Bayou Watershed, all in the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary
Louisiana - Bayou Grand Marais Watershed in the Mermentau River Basin
Mississippi - Rotten Bayou Watershed and Bayou LaTerre Watershed in the Jourdan River Basin
Texas - Kuy Creek--Guadalupe River Watershed, Guadalupe River--South Guadalupe River Watershed, and Hynes Bay--San Antonio Bay Watershed, all in the Lower San Antonio River/Guadalupe River Basins.
Since 1935, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service conservation delivery system has advanced a unique partnership with state and local governments and private landowners delivering conservation based on specific, local conservation needs, while accommodating state and national interests.
For more information about the Gulf of Mexico Initiative and NRCS's programs and services, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov.