Two years after the BP oil spill, the Louisiana Gulf Coast has reached a tipping point. It is on the cusp of the most ambitious conservation and economic restoration effort in its history.
Some Louisianians have serious questions about how this effort will end. Some Louisianians feel as though they’d been cast adrift after hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and again when they were victimized by the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The state’s challenges remain huge.
The RESTORE Act is a good place to start to begin the healing. It is intended to guarantee that 80 percent of the penalty money resulting from the oil spill goes to restoration projects in Louisiana and its Gulf Coast neighbors.
Getting the federal government to accept its share of the responsibility has been a tough task, but with the Congress poised to act, the stage is set to make that vision a reality. And we applaud the elected officials who have knocked down barriers and tossed aside partisan politics in the interests of Louisiana and its Gulf Coast neighbors.
At the same time, the Louisiana Legislature is considering — and needs to approve — the 2012 Coastal Master Plan, which lays out a road map for how incoming dollars best can be put to use.
Most of us struggle to plan a week or a year out. It’s tough to embrace a 50-year vision for protecting and restoring the coast. But that’s how you change the courses of rivers — and history. The plan is crucial to the future of the entire state and uses a sophisticated approach to make the best use of limited resources to provide the most protection and best restoration along the coast.
The one-two impact of the RESTORE Act and the 2012 Coastal Master Plan not only will protect Louisiana and its neighbors and make them stronger and better able to withstand natural and man-made disasters, it also will make Louisiana a leader in preparing the entire country for the projected sea level rises of the next half century and building a more secure future for our communities and our children.
The National Audubon Society stands with Louisiana and is fighting for Louisiana on the national stage — both because our roots are deep here and because what happens in Louisiana affects the rest of the nation.
The rest of America needs to make sure we don’t let down Louisiana and the Gulf Coast. We have the greatest opportunity we’ve ever had to restore and improve the coastline for humans and wildlife, and for the economy and the environment. This is the first time we’ve glimpsed that moment. Let’s not let it pass.
David Yarnold, president and CEO
National Audubon Society
New York, N.Y.
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