The official website of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council

History

The Gulf Coast ecosystem is vital to our Nation and our economy, providing valuable natural resources, abundant seafood, extraordinary beaches and recreational activities, and a rich cultural heritage. Its waters and coast are home to one of the most diverse environments in the world-- including over 15,000 species of sea life. More than 22 million Americans live in Gulf coastal counties and parishes, working in crucial U.S. industries such as  commercial seafood, recreational fishing, tourism and oil and gas production. The region also boasts of a significant shipping industry including 10 of America’s 15 largest ports accounting for nearly a trillion dollars in trade each year. Much of this value is built upon the Gulf Coast environment and the many benefits it provides.

Despite this richness, the region’s ecosystem has endured significant natural catastrophes over the past decade and other factors that have threatened the natural resources of the region. For example, the Gulf Coast region has experienced loss of critical wetland habitats, erosion of barrier islands and other coastal areas, imperiled fisheries, water quality degradation and significant coastal land loss due to natural forces, the alteration of hydrology and other human activities. Against this backdrop, the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig on April 20, 2010, cost 11 men their lives and set into motion one of the largest environmental disasters in our nation’s history. For months, thousands of people worked to stop the flow of oil from the wellhead and protect our shorelines, wildlife and coastal communities. 

At the same time we also looked to the future, understanding that an event of this magnitude would take the collective thinking and cooperation of the entire region to ensure that the Gulf recovered not only from the effects of the spill, but from natural and other catastrophes that threaten the natural resources of the region as well as the people who rely on those resources for their food, fun and livelihoods.

In recognition of both the severity of the spill as well as the challenges facing the region, on June 15, 2010, President Obama issued a request to the people of the Gulf and the rest of the nation to commit to recovery of the region not only from the spill, but to address broader ecosystem challenges brought on by storms, development pressures and other stressors. He called on Ray Mabus, then Secretary of the Navy, to develop a long-term restoration plan for the Gulf Coast, entitled: America’s Gulf Coast: A Long Term Recovery Plan after the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. The recommendations from that initial effort laid the groundwork for passing legislation to fund restoration efforts, as well as the development of strategies and plans to guide the region toward a comprehensive approach to restoration that takes into account the environmental, economic and cultural value of the Gulf Coast region.

Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force

On October 5, 2010, President Barack Obama issued Executive Order 13554, which established the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force (Task Force) “to coordinate intergovernmental responsibilities, planning, and exchange of information to better implement Gulf Coast ecosystem restoration and to facilitate appropriate accountability and support throughout the restoration process.”

The primary charge of the Task Force was to create a unified, strategic approach to restore the region’s ecosystem. In October 2011, Task Force members published a Gulf of Mexico Regional Ecosystem Restoration Strategy (Strategy) and the Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem Science Assessment and Needs that articulated an overarching vision for restoration. The Task Force developed the Strategy with the input of local partners, scientists, tribes and the public.

The foundation of the strategy document is four ecosystem restoration goals to facilitate long-term restoration:

  • Restore and Conserve Habitat 
  • Restore Water Quality
  • Replenish and protect living marine and coastal resources
  • Enhance community resilience

Learn more about the Task Force.

Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council

In 2012, the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act (RESTORE Act) established the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (Council) to develop and implement a comprehensive plan for recovery. In Executive Order 16326, President Obama dissolved the Task Force and charged the Council with incorporating the Task Force’s work into their continuing work to guide restoration efforts in the region.

In July 2012, the RESTORE Act established the Council, comprised of the governors of the States of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, the Secretaries of the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, the Army, Commerce, Homeland Security and the Interior, and the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. At that time, the Gulf States recommended and President Obama appointed the Secretary of Commerce as the Council’s first Chair. In March 2016, the Secretary of Agriculture became the Council Chair. Currently the Council Chair position is vacant. Learn more about the current Council Members

One of the Council's primary responsibilities was to develop a comprehensive plan to restore the ecosystem and the economy of the Gulf Coast region. The Council approved an Initial Comprehensive Plan entitled, Restoring the Gulf Coast’s Ecosystem and Economy in August 2013, which provided a framework to implement a coordinated, Gulf Coast region-wide restoration effort in a way that restores, protects and revitalizes the Gulf Coast.

Since the release of the Initial Comprehensive Plan the Council has conducted numerous public meetings to collect feedback on the Initial Funded Priorities List. In fall of 2016, the Council decided to update the 2013 Initial Comprehensive Plan to include recent developments in Gulf restoration such as the resolution of Deepwater Horizon oil spill civil claims against BP, a source of future funding for the Council’s projects. On December 16, 2016, the Council voted to approve the Comprehensive Plan Update 2016: Restoring the Gulf Coast’s Ecosystem and Economy, an update to the 2013 Comprehensive Plan. Learn more about the Comprehensive Plan

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