Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack recently 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 has released its final strategic plan for the long-term ecosystem restoration of the Gulf Coast.
“The Obama Administration is committed to ensuring our coasts are healthy and resilient,” Vilsack says. “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 the states of 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.
“The conservation partnership is taking proactive steps to improve the health of the Gulf of Mexico,” says USDA Under Secretary Harris Sherman. “This initiative is a powerful example of how government can collaborate with private citizens, communities, and private organizations.”
Sixteen priority watersheds in seven major river basins in five states are targeted for participation in the new Gulf of Mexico Initiative.
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, interested parties can visit www.nrcs.usda.gov.