Habitat Conservation & Restoration

Priorities for Sustainable Natural Communities

Beach Restoration

Sand used in beach restoration. Photo credit: Gulf of Mexico Alliance Governors' Action Plan

Over time, the Gulf of Mexico coastal zone has suffered significant degradation of natural habitats, as well as the associated loss of ecological services attendant to those changes.  Population growth, changes in land use, and other human impacts in the coastal zones have exacerbated these trends.  To remain healthy and sustainable, the communities of the Gulf region must ensure that economic development is consistent with environmental sustainability.  The mission of the Alliance is to provide leadership to advance conservation and restoration of coastal habitats and ecosystems throughout the Gulf and associated watersheds and ultimately reverse the downward trend in habitat quality, quantity, and ecosystem services.

Long-term Goals

  • Engage a diverse group of stakeholders from state, federal, and international agencies, business and industry, and non-profit organizations to restore and conserve critical habitat
  • Improve policies that promote conservation and restoration efforts in both the public and private arena
  • Provide improved conservation and restoration management tools through the application of science and technology
  • Develop and implement an accurate tracking system to document gains and losses of Gulf habitats and ecosystem services

 

ACTIONS

Habitat Conservation and Restoration 1: Expanded Partnerships

Action: Identify and engage non-participating relevant United States stakeholders with interests in the health and sustainability of the Gulf, and coordinate specific issues with representatives from the Gulf Mexican States.

International Workshops

Through a series of international meetings, the HCRT is establishing a network between U.S. and Mexican counterparts. Participants are identifying common goals and key issues for the Gulf and formulating strategies to address them in both countries. A workshop, held October 14-15, 2010 in Veracruz, Mexico, focused on differences and similarities between the countries’ environmental, civil, and social challenges as well as the potential for creating a counterpart for GOMA on the Mexican side. The group considered the GOMA priority issues in light of the variation in socioeconomic, policy, and environmental contexts of the two countries. As the international network develops, pilot projects will ultimately bring methods and resources from both sides of the border into play to catalyze binational working relationships and ecosystem-based management.

Working group members also participated in a meeting for Mexico’s Large Marine Ecosystem effort held in Veracruz February 21-23, 2011. A newsletter was established to stimulate an ongoing discussion among the participants.  Read more about the International Workshops.

Expanded Partnerships Contacts:
Quenton Dokken and Drew Puffer
Qdokken@gmf.org; puffer.drew@epa.gov


Habitat Conservation and Restoration 2: Policy Changes

Action: Address specific public policy issues impeding habitat conservation and restoration.

Review of Coastal Conservation Policies


Conservation & Restoration in the GoM: Comparison of Mexico/U.S. Policy, Law & Management
Building upon the existing system of laws, policies and institutions, the project team, made up of The Environmental Law Institute (ELI) and the Mexican Center for Environmental Law (CEMDA) teamed up to develop a well-reasoned strategy for enhanced collaboration between Mexico and the United States toward habitat conservation and restoration goals and actions.

Read more, get the full report.


Federal Standard Issues & Recommendations
In 2010, the HCRT conducted workshops on the Federal Standard and indentified a set of issues in the policy to consider in developing recommendations for policy changes.  Those recommendations, entitled Beneficial Use of Dredged Sediment & the Federal Standard:  Issues of Concern and Recommenationss for Action by the Alliance Management Team, were submitted to the AMT during the 2010 GUlf of Mexico Alliance meeting in Biloxi, MS.  HCRT state leads are currently focused on moving these recommendations forward. 

Read more, get the full report.

Analysis and Recommendations for Increasing Restoration and Conservation on Private Lands
The Land Trust Alliance (LTA) led this stakeholder-based analysis of policies and programs.  Key entities working with private landowners in each of the five states were engaged and their input is summarized in the final report, which was completed in May 2011.

Read more, get the full report.

Analysis of State and Federal Policy & Regulatory Programs that Provide Protection to Coastal Habitats in the Gulf of Mexico
ELI produced this rich analysis of state and federal policies and programs that affect conservation on the Gulf Coast.

Read more, get the full report.

Policy Changes Contacts:
Cherie O?Brien and Jim Pahl
Cherie.OBrien@tpwd.state.tx.us; james.pahl@la.gov


Habitat Conservation and Restoration 3: Technology Development

Action: Identify and resolve specific scientific and technical issues so that conservation and restoration of Gulf habitats are more successful.

Sea-level rise Modeling for Gulf National Wildlife Refuges in Florida

The Alliance's Habitat Conservation & Restoration Team completed sea-level rise modeling on five National Wildlife Refuge Study areas, including three in Florida:  1) Great White Heron NWR, FL; 2) Ten Thousand Islands, FL; and 3) Lower Suwannee NWR, FL.  These sites were selected from a list of 21 refuges that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service had proposed modeling for but that had not been funded. Proposed sites for which available data did not meet HCRT minimum data requirements were trimmed from that list. 

Read more, get the full report.

Sea-level Rise Modeling for San Bernard & Big Boggy National Wildlife Refuge in Texas

The Alliance's Habitat Conservation & Restoration Team completed sea-level rise modeling on five National Wildlife Refuge Study areas, including the San Bernard & Big Boggy refuge in Texas. These sites were selected from a list of 21 refuges that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service had proposed modeling for but that had not been funded. Proposed sites for which available data did not meet HCRT minimum data requirements were trimmed from that list. Modeling reports should be available in late 2011 and will be posted as soon as they are.

Read more, get the full report.

Sea-level Rise Modeling, Storm Surge Analysis and Conservation Analysis in Mississippi

Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge
The Alliance's Habitat Conservation & Restoration Teamcompleted sea-level rise modeling on five National Wildlife Refuge Study areas, including the Mississippi Sandhill Crane refuge.  These sites were selected from a list of 21 refuges that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service had proposed modeling for but that had not been funded. Proposed sites for which available data did not meet HCRT minimum data requirements were trimmed from that list.

Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve
This project began in 2008 when the HCRT partnered with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to assess potential impacts to coastal habitat as a result of sea level rise.  TNC's expertise and work with ecosystem assessment made them a locigal choice to lead the project.

During the conduct of this project, the HCRT set data criteria for The Sea Level Affecting Marshes Model (SLAMM) modeling to guide future site selection and to improve results. 

Read more, get the full report.

Sea-level Rise Modeling, Storm Surge Analysis and Conservation Analysis in Texas

In 2008, the Alliance's Habitat Conservation & Restoration Team partnered with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to assess potential impacts to coastal habitat with sea level rise. Models for three sites have been run, Jefferson County and Galveston Bay, Texas, are among them.  In each area, stakeholder concerns and suggestions have strengthened results and confidence in them. During the conduct of this project, the HCRT set data criteria for SLAMM modeling to guide future site selection and to improve the reliability of results and thereby make the best use of project funding. Results from the Galveston Bay project were fed into the ecosystem services project being conducted under HCRT action 5.

Read more, get the full report.

Technology Development Contacts:
George Ramseur and Barbara Viskup
george.ramseur@dmr.ms.gov; barbara_viskup@deq.state.ms.us


Habitat Conservation and Restoration 4: Gulf Regional Sediment Management Master Plan

Action: Develop and implement the Gulf Regional Sediment Management Master Plan (GRSMMP) to more effectively use dredged material and other sediment resources for restoration projects.

Gulf Regional Sediment Management Master Plan

The Gulf Regional Sediment Management Master Plan (GRSMMP) is a collection of products intended to guide more effective management of sediment resources in the Gulf for habitat conservation and restoration as well as coastal community resilience. Integral to the GRSMMP is recognition of sediments as valuable resources. It will facilitate sediment management on a regional scale unencumbered by agency, state, or national boundaries. The GRSMMP uses the understanding of sediment dynamics (inputs, outputs, movement) to inform management of sediment resources to accomplish Alliance goals.

A technical framework document was drafted as a first step. It presents information about the regional sediment processes and sediment resources that are key for establishing effective management guidelines, developing sub-regional strategies, and enhancing cooperative management decisions. It provides a basis for matching sediment resources with conservation and restoration needs, for assessing competing demands for sediment, and for understanding sediment-related ecological considerations which can help improve plans and management practices. It identifies agency authorities and policies related to sediment management to provide a basis for future discussions of improving practices and addressing impediments. Recommendations and guidelines resulting from this effort will aid the Gulf States in more effective management of sediment resources, recognizing their programs are part of a regional system involving natural processes, interrelated objectives, and a range of anthropogenic activities.

Read more, get the GRSMMP Technical Framework document.

Gulf Regional Sediment Management Master Plan Case Study Compilation

As part of the development of the Gulf Regional Sediment Management Master Plan, twelve case studies were selected for inclusion including dredging projects, federal navigation projects, and others.  Cases studies were selected by the HCRT GRSMMP Subcommittee to provide examples from around the Gulf that demonstrate the beneficial application of RSM principles in projects along with some where opportunities may have been missed. The case studies chapter was compiled by Applied Coastal Research & Engineering and completed in May 2011.

The first case study to be conducted was for Whiskey Island in Florida.  Excerpt from the Whiskey Island study: "Whiskey Island was cut off from its original source of sediment when the Mississippi River changed course, and since then it has been erosional. Westward littoral transport supplied sediment to downdrift beaches until Whiskey Pass enlarged enough to inhibit this transport process.  Now, Whiskey Island will need to be continually nourished if it is to remain viable as an island."

Read more, get the full report.

Regional Sediment Management Master Plan for Coastal Mississippi

A regional sediment master plan drafted for coastal Mississippi in 2002 has been updated by CH2M Hill on behalf of and in collaboration with the HCRT. The revised plan will reflect the current state of coastal features and sediment dynamics since severe storm activity passed through the region. Stakeholder communications and thorough research have produced updated inventories of potential projects and sediment resources.

Read more, get the full report.

Regional Sediment Management Master Plan for West Galveston Bay

A first-ever regional sediment management plan for West Galveston Bay is currently being developed by the Alliance's Habitat Conservation & Restoration Team. The area was seriously impacted by Hurricane Ike in 2008, making this critical and timely work. The plan includes a sediment budget and hydrodynamic modeling and inventories possible projects and sediment sources.

Read more, get the full report.

Gulf Regional Sediment Management Master Plan Contacts:
Larry Parson and Carl Ferraro
Larry.E.Parson@usace.army.mil; Carl.Ferraro@dcnr.alabama.gov


Habitat Conservation and Restoration 5: Reversing the Downward Trend in Habitat and Ecosystem Services

Action: Monitor a Gulf-wide inventory of distribution, gain, and loss of coastal habitats and measure the ecosystem services they provide.

Study of Ecosystem Services Provided by Marsh Habitat in Galveston Bay

The Alliance's Habitat Conservation & Restoration Team has partnered with the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies to study the potential effects of sea level rise on ecosystem services in Galveston Bay, Texas. Identifying the service flows for marsh habitat type in the Galveston Bay area, then overlaying sea level rise projections under various scenarios and time frames should provide resource managers and local officials understandable information to base development and conservation decisions on. Assessing the productivity of ecosystems in terms of ecosystem services offers a view of tangible, and often quantifiable, factors to weigh against traditional economic development parameters.

This can lead to more prudent and efficient outcomes for coastal communities. In addition to providing good information for Galveston-area officials, the HCRT will use the lessons from this endeavor to promote similar projects around the Gulf. Sea level rise projections from the Galveston Bay SLAMM project conducted under HCRT action 3 served as inputs for this project.

Read more, get the full report.

Reversing the Downward Trend in Habitat and Ecosystem Services Contacts:
Keith Lovell and Ryan Fikes
keith.lovell@la.gov; ryan@gulfmex.org

Gulf Alliance Habitat Conservation & Restoration Team Meeting
"Final Agenda"
June 27, 2013 - Tampa

Contact Information

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Priority Issue
Team Chair

James Pahl
LCA Science & Technology Office
Phone: 225-342-2413
Email: james.pahl
@la.gov

Keith Lovell
Louisiana Department of Natural Resources
Phone: 225-342-9052
Email: Keith.Lovell
@la.gov

Priority Issue
Team Coordinator


Mike Smith
Gulf of Mexico Foundation
Phone: 361-882-3939
Email: mike@
gulfmex.org

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Habitat Conservation and Restoration 1-Pager

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State Leadership

ALABAMA
Carl Ferraro
Alabama Department of Conservation & Natural Resources
Phone:(251) 621-1216
Email: cferraro@
dcnr.state.al.us

FLORIDA
Becky Prado

Florida Department of Environmental Protection
Phone: (850) 245-2103
Email: rebecca.prado
@ dep.state.fl.us

Roxane Dow
Florida Department of Environmental Protection
Phone: (850) 922-7852
Email: roxane.dow@
dep.state.fl.us

LOUISIANA
James Pahl (PIT Lead)
Louisiana Office of Coastal Protection & Restoration
Phone:(225) 342-2413
Email: james.pahl
@la.gov

Keith Lovell (PIT Lead)
Louisiana Department of Natural Resources
Phone: (225) 342-9052
Email: Keith.Lovell
@la.gov

MISSISSIPPI
Barbara Viskup

Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality
Phone: (228) 432-1056
Email: barbara_viskup
@deq.state.ms.us

George Ramseur
Mississippi Department of Marine Resources
Phone:(228) 374-5000
Email: george.
ramseur@dmr.ms.gov

TEXAS
Ray Newby

Texas General Land Office
Phone: (512) 475-3624
Email: Ray.Newby
@glo.state.tx.us

Cherie O'Brien
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department
Phone: (281) 534-0132
Email: cherie.obrien
@tpwd.state.tx.us

Federal
Co-facilitators

Drew Puffer
EPA - GMP
Phone: (228) 688-3913
Email: puffer.drew@epa.gov

Heather Young
NOAA - NMFS
Phone: (409) 766-3699
Email: heather.young
@noaa.gov