Restoring the Gulf Coast


The Gulf oil disaster had a devastating impact on the Gulf in the Mississippi River Delta and beyond. But it was just the latest assault on the region’s ecosystems after years of degradation from human impacts and natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina.

The lingering effects of the more than 200 million gallons of oil that seeped into the Gulf is still devastating local wildlife and compounding the Mississippi River Delta's longstanding erosion problems that cause an average of a football field of marsh habitat to vanish into the Gulf every hour.

Throughout the year following the oil spill, thousands of birds, hundreds of endangered sea turtles and dozens of dolphins were found dead in the disaster zone. Learn more about NWF's work through the Gulf oil disaster>>

Making BP Pay to Restore the Gulf

Under the Clean Water Act, BP could face as much as $20 billion in fines for its responsibility in the oil disaster.

National Wildlife Federation has fought to make sure this money goes directly into recovering the Gulf and the communities that depend on it.

In 2012, Congress passed the RESTORE Act (Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunity and Revived Economics of the Gulf States Act of 2011) which invests 80 percent of fines by BP and other parties directly in areas affects by the disaster.

The RESTORE Act Benefits Wildlife

The endangered brown pelicans were starting to nest when the Deepwater Horizon well exploded in 2010. On one small island, biologists found over 300 oiled pelicans in a single day. Biologists remain concerned about the long-term impacts of the dispersed and submerged oil on the pelican’s food chain and nesting grounds.

Scientists are currently investigating the oil’s impacts on many different species of fish as well as sea turtles and dolphins, but the full impact on wildlife may never be known. Previous oil spill disasters have taken years to reveal their full effects and often recovery is still not complete after decades. Impacts of the Gulf oil spill will likewise be unfolding for years, if not decades.

Using 80 percent of the Clean Water Act penalties from the Gulf oil disaster, the RESTORE Act establishes a trust account to restore both the economic and environmental health of the Gulf Coast. A majority portion of these penalties (60 percent) will be allocated to the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, to be spent in two ways:

  • Half of the funds will be used to implement the Council’s comprehensive federal environmental plan.
  • The other half will be distributed to the five Gulf States based on oil spill impacts and spent according to each individual state’s plan, which will be consistent with the comprehensive federal plan.

A smaller portion (35 percent) will be available to Gulf Coast states to be used within the impacted region for environmental and economic restoration. The remainder (5 percent) will be dedicated to science and monitoring of Gulf Coast ecosystem restoration and fisheries.

Learn more about the impacts to wildlife and habitat from the Gulf oil disaster >>

Why Gulf Restoration is Essential to Help the Economy

Recovery of the Gulf Coast is a national economic imperative. Many of the nation's key economic resources depend upon the Gulf’s fragile and threatened ecosystems including:

  • A third of all domestic oil production
  • 10 of our nation's 15 largest shipping ports
  • Roughly 40 percent of commercial seafood production in the lower 48 states
  • A $34 billion per year tourism industry

Restoring the Gulf will make the region more resilient, lessen the potential damage from future hurricanes and flooding, and create tens of thousands of jobs.

NWF is working with a coalition of conservation groups to help recover the environmental and economic health of the Gulf ecosystem, for wildlife, local communities and the nation.

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Five Years and Counting, a report by the National Wildlife Federation