I want to share with you the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Vision for a Healthy Gulf of Mexico Watershed, which is available at www.fws.gov/gulfrestoration/pdf/VisionDocument.pdf. As you know, the Service is the lead federal agency for the conservation of migratory birds and anadromous fish, and we share the lead for the management of federally threatened and endangered species including marine mammals. We also manage a significant network of lands in the Gulf of Mexico watershed as part of its National Wildlife Refuge System.
The Gulf of Mexico and its watershed is critically important to the health and vitality of our nation’s natural and economic resources. The Gulf produces more than half of America’s crude oil and natural gas, and the Mississippi Flyway, which is in the watershed, is home to 40 percent of all North American migrating waterfowl and shorebirds. The purpose of this Vision is to invite a conversation with you and other partners and stakeholders about how and where to focus our collective restoration efforts to achieve the greatest economic and ecological results. We want to be a strong partner with you, and other state, federal and non-governmental organizations, as we work to restore this vital region.
Our Vision identifies several science-based conservation strategies in 16 conservation focal areas that could take advantage of voluntary, existing programs to implement non-regulatory conservation actions across the Gulf and its watershed. While most of those focal areas are concentrated along the Gulf Coast, three of them are in the upper portion of the watershed. That is because more than half the continental U.S. drains into the Gulf of Mexico, and we recognize that a large-scale watershed approach to conservation will be important to achieve lasting restoration for the Gulf Coast. A national investment toward a sustainable Gulf will be at risk if we restore the coastal region and fail to address the causes of the water pollution, dead zones, invasive species, and fragmented wildlife habitat that threatens it.
As a leader and a stakeholder in this watershed, your engagement in this work will be essential to its success. Additional information about the Service’s Gulf restoration efforts is available at www.fws.gov/gulfrestoration. If you have questions, or would like to talk about our vision for the Gulf and its watershed and how we can work together, please contact me at 404-679-4000, or Linda Walker, our senior adviser for Gulf restoration, at 904-302-3923.
Cynthia K. Dohner
Regional Director, Southeast Region
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service