Gulf of Mexico Program
     Large Aquatic Ecosystem (LAE)
                                                                                 EPA
COUNCIL OF LARGE
  ^AQUATIC
 EOeSYSTEMS
The Gulf of Mexico Program was initiated in 1988 by the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) as a non-regulatory program. Modeled after the
National Estuary Programs and founded on the threefold principles of
partnership, science-based information, and citizen involvement, the Gulf
Program joined the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay Programs as flagships
of the nation's efforts to apply an adaptive management approach to large
coastal freshwater and marine ecosystems.  The mission of the Program is to
facilitate collaborative actions to protect, maintain, and restore the health and
productivity of the Gulf of Mexico in ways consistent with the economic
well-being of the Region.

The Program provides a broad geographic focus on the major environmental
issues in the Gulf, and from its inception, was envisioned as a multiagency
partnership endeavor based on the simple premise that no one agency or
institution alone has the technical skills, financial resources, or legislative authority needed to resolve the
environmental or natural resource problems confronting an ecological system the size of the Gulf. The
Program's success comes from its ability to engage many people across the Gulf region for leadership and to
implement projects that move in an environmentally and economically sound direction.

In 2004, as a result of a shared vision for a healthy and resilient Gulf of Mexico coast, the Governors of
Alabama, Florida, Louisiana,  Mississippi, and Texas formalized the Gulf of Mexico Alliance. Thirteen federal
agencies committed to supporting the Alliance and formed a new Federal Workgroup with EPA's Gulf of Mexico
Program and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration serving  as co-leads. The Alliance released
the Governors' Action Plan in 2006 which was intended to be a dynamic starting point to set the stage for a long-
term  regional partnership. Developed using input from Gulf citizens and supported by specific state and federal
agency resource commitments, the Action Plan set out projects to deliver significant on-the-ground results.

Challenges
The Gulf of Mexico is a vast and productive body of water that is of tremendous value in ecological, economic,
and social terms.  The Gulf's vastness and diversity often mask the fundamental relationships between the living
and the non-living workings of this magnificent ecological system. The physical magnitude of the Gulf is both its
strength and its weakness. Its size and diversity contribute to its productivity, yet they also contribute to a sense
of complacency with regard to day-to-day human activities and their unintended consequences.  There are four
major challenges to healthy and resilient communities in the Gulf region: (1) Sustaining  the Gulf Economy; (2)
Improving the Gulf Ecology;  (3) Mitigating Impacts of Climate Change, and (4) Mitigating Harmful Effects of
Coastal Water Quality.

Priorities
The Gulf of Mexico Alliance identified issues that are regionally significant and can be effectively addressed
through increased collaboration at the local, state, and federal levels. These priorities represent an initial focus
for action through the Alliance and align with the Gulf of Mexico Program priority issues:

  Water Quality for healthy beaches and shellfish beds.

  Habitat conservation and restoration.

  Ecosystems integration and assessment.

  Nutrient reduction and nutrient impacts.

  Coastal community resiliency.

  Environmental education.



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 Accomplishments
 The Gulf of Mexico Program reflects upon 20 years of collaboration and
 environmental accomplishments to the benefit of the Gulf communities.
 With the cooperation of its partners, the Program successfully implements
 water quality and ecological recovery programs. The Program's
 cooperative approach includes:

    Delisting approximately 109 rivers and streams from EPA's list of
     polluted waterways.

    Supporting the Gulf States with 543 projects in characterizing some of
     the most difficult environmental issues confronting coastal waters and in
     implementing a wide variety of demonstration projects and studies that
     offer solutions to those problems.

    Protecting over 25,000 acres of coastal marine habitat.

    Designating all six Coastal Education Learning Centers, one  in each
     Gulf state  and in Veracruz, Mexico.

    Assisting the Gulf Alliance to fulfill 99 percent of the 2006 Governors'
     Action Plan.

    Commemorating the people and agencies working together to protect
     the Gulfs  ecosystems through 170 Gulf Guardian Awards.

    Supporting international efforts by implementing integrated binational
     (U.S. and  Mexico) early-warning detection systems for coastal
     community management of harmful algal blooms.

    Supporting the goals and actions identified in the GulfHypoxia Action
     Plan.
  Future Direction
  The Gulf of Mexico Region is experiencing the power of regional
  collaboration and partnerships.  The results of the first Governors' Action
  Plan exceeded initial expectations, identifying specific actions needed to
  improve the health of the coastal areas and to improve the quality of life for
  the Gulfs citizens. Significant accomplishments have been achieved and
  lasting partnerships were established;  however, the Gulf coast ecosystems
  are still at risk with challenges for years to come.  To build on the success
  of the partnerships, the Governors' Action Plan II is under development as a
  far-reaching, five-year regional blueprint for 2009-2014 to increase the
  health of the ecology and economy of the Gulf and address the most
  pressing issues affecting the Gulf Region.  The Gulf of Mexico Program will
  continue to enhance and expand effective working partnerships to identify
  and resolve environmental issues in the Gulf ecosystem. We will continue
  creating a Gulf that flourishes in all its natural richness and variety, while
  embracing the needs and desires of its people.

    Nil   7111
The Gulf of Mexico Program Facts
Watershed Size: ~2 million square miles
Waterbody Size: Gulf Region covers ~600,000 square miles
Population: 44.2 million people in 1995 and may increase to an estimated 61.4 million in 2025
EPA Regions: 4 and 6
Director: Bryon Griffith
                                                                          The Gulf of Mexico
                                                                          Program was
                                                                          designated a member
                                                                          of the US
                                                                          Environmental
                                                                          Protection Agency's
                                                                          Large Aquatic
                                                                          Ecosystem Council (LAE) in 2008.
                                                                          The Gulf of Mexico Program joins nine
                                                                          other geographic-based efforts that
                                                                          focus on protecting and restoring the
                                                                          health of critical aquatic ecosystems.
                                                                          The LAE Council seeks to merge
                                                                          geographically-based efforts with
                                                                          national water programs to advance
                                                                          the health of the Nation's large aquatic
                                                                          ecosystems and strengthen national
                                                                          water programs.
                                                                          LAE Program Websites

                                                                          Chesapeake Bay Program
                                                                          www.chesapeakebay.net

                                                                          Columbia River Basin
                                                                          www.epa.gov/region10/columbia

                                                                          Great Lakes
                                                                          www.epa.gov/glnpo

                                                                          Gulf of Mexico Program
                                                                          www.epa.gov/gmpo

                                                                          Lake Champlain Basin Program
                                                                          www.lcbp.org

                                                                          Long Island Sound Study
                                                                          www.longislandsoundstudy.net

                                                                          Pacific Islands Office
                                                                          www.epa.gov/region09/islands

                                                                          Puget Sound - Georgia Basin
                                                                          (Under Construction)

                                                                          San Francisco Bay Delta Estuary
                                                                          (Under Construction)

                                                                          South Florida Geographic Initiative
                                                                          www.epa.gov/Region4/water/southflorida
                                                                             Office of Wetlands, Oceans,
                                                                                 and Watersheds

                                                                            www.epa.gov/owow/oceans/
                                                                           partnerships/large_aquatic.html

                                                                                   October 2008
                                                                                   irfie Aquntie Ecosystems

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