America's treasured Gulf of Mexico ecosystems are composed of a mosaic of coral reefs, wetlands, marshes and sea grass meadows. Private agriculture and forestlands account for 90 percent of the landscape in the five Gulf states, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Consequently, the management of private lands significantly influences the health of the region's economies, tourism and the natural resources, which keep the Gulf of Mexico thriving.
But the health of the Gulf of Mexico region has deteriorated significantly because of factors, such as the loss of critical wetland habitats, imperiled fisheries, water quality degradation and significant loss of coastal lands. The Gulf Coast region also has endured significant natural and man-made catastrophes in the last decade, including major hurricanes and the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The Gulf of Mexico Initiative (GoMI) works hand-in-hand with other NRCS landscape-level conservation efforts, including the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI) and the former Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative (MBHI). MBHI was launched just weeks following the spill and ultimately created 470,000 acres of additional habitat for migrating shorebirds and waterfowl affected by the spill.
Taking a proactive approach after the 2010 oil spill, NRCS launched GoMI, initially focusing on targeted watersheds. This initiative was part of a comprehensive effort to accelerate voluntary conservation in the region while collaborating with other federal and state government agencies and other groups to respond and aid restoration following the oil spill. With more than 400 service centers across the region, NRCS has on-the-ground expertise to act quickly and address natural resource concerns of regional and national priority while also accounting for local needs
In 2016, NRCS renewed its GoMI efforts, releasing a three-year strategy that directed $328 million to help producers make improvements to 3.2 million acres in the five Gulf states. The strategy broadened its focus areas to not only include targeted watersheds but on a broader GoMI zone, which includes 200-plus key coastal counties and watersheds.
How Does GoMI Work?
Through the GoMI, NRCS uses conservation programs and practices to provide technical and financial support to help producers, government agencies and other groups put conservation on the ground in the Gulf region. The goal of these conservation efforts is to help to clean and conserve water, enhance wildlife habitat and strengthen agricultural operations in the region.
How Does GoMI Benefit Producers
Through this initiative, producers have additional opportunities to receive financial and technical assistance for voluntary conservation that helps support Gulf of Mexico restoration goals. This assistance not only benefits the region’s natural resources but also helps private landowners improve their farms, ranches and forests through voluntary conservation work.
How Does GoMI Benefit The Public?
The initiative is helping Gulf ecosystems recover across the region. As conservation work cleans and conserves water and restores and sustains critical natural resources and wildlife habitats, the public benefits. Voluntary conservation also helps improve sustainability of economies and industries. For example, more than 1.3 billion pounds of seafood come out of the Gulf each year, out-producing the south and mid-Atlantic, the Chesapeake Bay, and New England, combined, in harvests of finfish, shrimp and shellfish. Conservation also creates and sustains recreational opportunities, which is important in a region where 50 percent of all recreational fishing in the United States takes place
NRCS leverages public-private conservation investments through an extensive network of existing partnerships. Coordinating with soil and water conservation districts, state and federal agencies, and nonprofit groups, many NRCS investments are matched two- or three-fold. Partners include federal and state agencies on the Natural Resources Damage Assessment Trustee Council and the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, as well as the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, which play pivotal roles in aiding Gulf recovery as well as broadening opportunities for voluntary private lands conservation.
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