Saving the Gulf Coast for both birds and people: A massive effort

Reddish Egret
Reddish Egret, Marco Island, FL. Credit: Creative Commons. Andy Morffew

The National Audubon Society is recommending $1.7-billion in projects, including key programs in Florida, to restore and conserve the Gulf of Mexico region from disasters ranging from hurricanes to oil spills.

It’s the largest ecosystem restoration effort ever attempted, according to the nonprofit conservation organization, with projects spanning Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, Louisana and Florida.

The Gulf of Mexico is an “ecological treasure,” according to a report titled: Audubon’s Vision: Restoring the Gulf of Mexico for Birds and People.

“Florida isn’t only a hotspot for human visitors,” says Julie Wraithmell, executive director of Audubon Florida.

“Millions of coastal birds depend on our coasts as nesting grounds and stopover sites as they migrate. Restoring and acquiring the places in this plan will provide refuge to rare and imperiled bird species while mitigating for the impacts of a changing climate,” she says in a news release.

The organization’s Florida state office has identified critical priorities and programs to address changing climate, sea level rise, and harmful algal blooms, according to the release.

They include a $5.3-million project called the Cape Sable Restoration, which would “create, restore, and enhance coastal wetlands” in Everglades National Park. The program area impacts species ranging from Reddish Egrets to Roseate Spoonbills.

Another $3.3-million project is recommended to protect and conserve habitats in Hillsborough County. That’s the Richard T. Paul Alafia Bank Bird Sanctuary Breakwaters.

And a $2.2-million project called Greater Tampa Bay Waterbird Rookeries Protection Initiative would protect habitats. The project stems from an oil spill that disrupted bird nesting.

Overall, Audubon’s report “identified 8.1 million acres of highly suitable habitat across the Gulf for Audubon’s flagship species. The report highlights 30 projects that 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.”





Diane Rado
Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and did a fellowship in education reform at the University of Michigan in 1999-2000. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.


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