Southeast Volusia Audubon Society, P.O. Box 46, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32170;

March 2019 Prez Sez

National Audubon Presents Vision for Gulf Restoration

The Gulf of Mexico is an ecological treasure.  It has habitats for people, birds and other animals, recreational opportunities, commercial opportunities, and tourism opportunities. 

It has always been subject to the vagaries of Nature with hurricanes and other natural disasters.  And now, sea level rise is causing many estuaries and deltas and marshlands to become open water.  And the BP disaster in 2010 capped it all by causing untold damage to livelihoods, businesses, tourism, and of course the birds that got caught up in the oil slicks. 

After the disaster, BP and the Justice Department agreed on a settlement of over $20 billion in fines, to be dedicated to restoration of the Gulf and of businesses hurt by the effects of the spill. 

National Audubon has promulgated a vision for the restoration of the Gulf, especially as it relates to the  birds, including 11 of Audubon’s flagship species as well as six Audubon priority species. These species use the Gulf at some point during their life cycles – for breeding, overwintering or as a migratory stopover.  They also want science-based solutions for coastal resiliency in the face of rising sea levels.  And this includes human habitations as well. 

Audubon proposes to use about $1.7 billion of the $20.8 billion in fines for 16 state-based, 10 region-wide and four open ocean projects, which together total more than 136,000 acres of restored or protected habitat for bird and human communities from south Texas to the Florida Keys.  These 30 projects will collectively address the recovery and population health of these birds as Audubon continues to determine how sea level rise will affect the Gulf and identify ways to better support these species.

The report does not make it clear how Audubon plans to get the $1.7 billion or how it will be administered, but it does make clear that it has 4 state or coastal offices, 71 chapters, 118,000 members, 94 staff,   19 centers and sanctuaries, 5 states participating in coastal stewardship programs, and 641 coastal stewardship or bird nesting sites to rely on to get the job done.  Their vision of success includes monitoring of flagship and priorities, strategic conservation planning and advocacy, coastal conservation and restoration through collective partnerships and programs, and long-term stewardship.

It is an ambitious project that will take at least a generation to complete.  Although we do not reside on the Gulf itself, we should be on the lookout for areas where we can help by letters or emails or phone calls to our members of state and national congress, or other decision-makers, to help the effort go forward.