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Efforts to restore Gulf Coast continue to gain momentum

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After years of urging top national policymakers to prioritize restoring the U.S. Gulf Coast, Ducks Unlimited is pleased to see the effort to use Clean Water Act penalties paid by the parties responsible for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is gaining momentum in Congress. Last week, Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana was joined by 22 other House members in introducing legislation that would direct 80 percent of Gulf-spill related fines back to the Gulf Coast to be reinvested in coastal ecosystems and economies. 

The introduction of this bill represents the latest in a series of steps that will help ensure these dollars go toward on-the-ground restoration efforts in a region that is experiencing severe wetlands loss. On September 21, S. 1400, the RESTORE Act of 2011, received broad bipartisan support when the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted in favor of the legislation. The RESTORE Act of 2011 also seeks to direct 80 percent of spill-related fines back into Gulf Coast restoration efforts. 

However, Congress is not the only place where Gulf Coast restoration efforts are progressing. The Environmental Protection Agency recently released a draft strategy to restore coastal ecosystems in the region. The draft, which is known as the Gulf of Mexico Regional Ecosystem Restoration Strategy (Preliminary), is a comprehensive plan that addresses the long-standing issues contributing to the deterioration of Gulf ecosystems. 

"The administration, Congress and the EPA should be commended for their efforts to address the staggering wetlands loss occurring in the Gulf Coast region," DU Director of Public Policy Barton James said. "Not only will restoring these coastal wetlands save precious waterfowl habitat, but it also will have positive effects on our nation's economy." 

The Gulf Coast, which is commonly referred to as sportsmen's paradise, provides crucial habitat for waterfowl. Millions of duck and geese winter here each year, making the Gulf Coast a top destination for waterfowl hunters. In Louisiana alone, 678,000 hunters and anglers spend $4.5 million a day pursuing their outdoor interests. 

"These recent actions to fund restoration efforts are encouraging," James said. "It is important all sportsmen let their members of Congress know restoring this wintering ground is a priority." 
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