FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 9, 2005
CONTACT: Cragin Mosteller, (850) 245-2112

State, Federal Leaders Forge Ahead with Gulf of Mexico Plan

--Five Gulf states and White House collaborate for environmental protection --

NAPLES, Fl -- On World Oceans Day, top environmental officials from the White House and five neighboring states gathered to firm up a plan to strengthen protection for the Gulf of Mexico. Hosted by Florida, the five Gulf states and the federal government outlined a shared ecosystem-based approach for improving the health of the more than 3.7 billion acres of Gulf water through coordinated coastal research, ocean education and water quality safeguards.

“This is the first step toward a healthier marine environment and a renewed alliance for the Gulf of Mexico,” said Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Colleen M. Castille. “By combining science, coastal management expertise and financial resources, we can strengthen partnerships and preserve the environmental and economic health of the Gulf for a lasting underwater legacy.”

Coming on the heels of a call to action extended by Florida Governor Jeb Bush to the five Gulf Governors last spring, White House Council of Environmental Quality Chairman James Connaughton, along with senior federal officials from seven cabinet agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the Department of Commerce, and the Department of the Interior, joined agency heads from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

“Sound conservation and effective management of our ocean and coastal resources depend on regional, state, and local partnerships,” said James Connaughton. “We applaud the five Gulf Governors for their leadership.”

Surrounded by the pristine estuarine waters of Rookery Bay in Naples, the environmental leaders discussed strategies to expand existing regional partnerships for protecting the Gulf. The renewed alliance between the Gulf states is part of coordinated response to President George W. Bush’s Ocean Action Plan, which called for the development of regional goals and priorities for safeguarding the nation’s oceans and pointed to the Gulf of Mexico alliance as a model for other coastal areas.

The state-federal alliance outlined five priorities for restoring, protecting and improving the waters of the Gulf of Mexico:

  • Improving and protecting water quality;
  • Restoring coastal wetlands and estuarine ecosystems;
  • Reducing pollution and nutrient loading;
  • Identifying and characterizing Gulf habitats to support coastal management; and
  • Expanding environmental education to improve stewardship.

Tomorrow, the alliance will begin a round of stakeholder meetings across the five states to solicit public input on how best to preserve the health of the Gulf of Mexico. The first stakeholder meeting will be held at the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve on June 10, 2005.

The Gulf of Mexico is the ninth largest water body in the world, accounting for half the wetlands in the United States and teeming with sea life, ranging from killer whales to unexplored deepwater corals living thousands of feet below the surface. With some 3,400 miles of shoreline from Cape Sable, Florida to the tip of the Yucatan peninsula, the Gulf is bordered by Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas to the north, Mexico to the west and the island of Cuba to the southeast.

For more information on the stakeholder meetings and the Gulf of Mexico Alliance, visit www.gulfofmexicoalliance.org.

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