The Gulf of Mexico is a national treasure. The Gulf ecosystem hosts a diverse array of habitats from coral reefs and hyper-saline lagoons to emergent wetlands and vast sea grass meadows. The land area of the Gulf’s five states — Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas — encompasses more than 290 million acres. Consequently, the management of private agricultural lands tremendously influences the health of the region’s industry, tourism and natural resources, especially when it comes to the quality and quantity of water needed to keep the Gulf of Mexico alive.
The health of the Gulf of Mexico region has deteriorated significantly — from the loss of critical wetland habitats and imperiled fisheries to water quality degradation and significant coastal land loss. Amplifying this, the Gulf Coast region has endured significant natural and man-made catastrophes in the last decade, including major hurricanes and the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.
Governments and entities at the local, state and federal levels, including NRCS, are working to improve the Gulf ecosystem. NRCS works with farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to improve the health of this critical ecosystem through an incentive-based, voluntary approach. Following the oil spill, USDA serves on the Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustee Council and the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, working collaboratively with other governments and entities on strategies to aid restoration of this ecosystem.
Taylor Wilcox has used conservation practices on his rice and cattle farm in coastal Texas to improve the quality of water that flows to the Gulf of Mexico while also improving the habitat for the region’s many migratory birds. Read more.