Defining a Healthy Gulf of Mexico
President Obama's Restoration Taskforce The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Taskforce is the most noteworthy and ambitious effort to date to address restoration in the Gulf of Mexico. The effort was welcomed with appropriate enthusiasm as the potential funding from NRDA and Clean Water Act sources promise not only a plan, but implementation. Federal resource agencies have invested heavily in restoration planning before the taskforce and are busy coordinating with the taskforce. Other restoration efforts are underway from state and nongovernmental organizations. These plans include both economic and ecological goals.
All share a common attribute of restoring the Gulf, but there is a lack of shared vision as to what that means. An effort to define a shared view of what an economically and ecologically healthy Gulf is, accomplishes two ends. It establishes a target for restoration towards which to strive together and for which progress can be evaluated by appropriate metrics. Because it is a shared goal, it will foster cooperation in moving towards the common goal, fostering efficiencies and reducing duplication of efforts.
A shared vision is only of value if there is a policy framework within which actions can be taken to achieve it. It would be a frustrating exercise to define a healthy Gulf that all agree as desirable, develop a robust restoration plan to achieve it and then discover the legislative authorities and policies to expend funding and direct both state and federal action, does not exist to make it reality.
A series of stepping stone workshops will bring to the SGM Summit a draft definition of a healthy Gulf and the existing legislative authorities that would provide an implementation framework. The goal of the SGM Summit will be to finalize and ratify that definition of an economically and ecologically healthy Gulf and identify existing policy frameworks and where they exist, gaps, within which actions can be taken to achieve a shared vision of a healthy Gulf of Mexico.