The Wild Side: RESTORE work enters next phase

Yep, it was work getting Congress to approve the RESTORE Act. Countless folks representing hundreds of organizations campaigned to get Congress to approve a measure that sends 80 percent of fines levied against BP for that 2010 oil disaster off the Louisiana coast to the five Gulf states.

That’s a very simple statement to very complex issue, but in 50 words or less, that’s what RESTORE accomplished. To be sure, RESTORE was an accomplishment beyond big, certainly something on a grand scale.

Now it’s time to make sure RESTORE ascends to the grandest scale.

Now it’s time to make sure those billions in fines are sent to the places where it can do the most good.

Now it’s time to make sure Louisiana gets its rightful share of those billions.

Because the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council released its “Initial Comprehensive Plan: Restoring the Gulf Coast’s Ecosystem and Economy” last week, now is the time Louisiana will enter the next most important phase of recovering from our nation’s worst oil-related disaster.

It will be our job to let the other four Gulf states know our state suffered, and continues to suffer, the most damage from this ecological nightmare.

While other states have their white-sand beaches and most of their recreational opportunities restored, tarballs continue to wash up on our shores, and oil damage continues to restrict commercial and recreational take from the waters.

It’s going to be our job to insist the Restoration Council adopts our state’s long- and still-debated Coastal Master Plan in its priority schedule and places the CMP as its highest priority.

We can thank the National Wildlife Federation and other groups for pushing its Vanishing Paradise initiative to the point where a majority in Congress believe RESTORE was the right thing to do.

And we can thank the NWF for restating the work needed in Louisiana is paramount among all the Gulf Restoration Council needs.

No one better than Louisiana outdoorsmen and conservationists know our state’s coast is the nursery for one of the world’s great fisheries and that we overwinter so many migratory birds and waterfowl that losing our marshes could lead to a decline in those species.

The problem we’ve had is telling the other Gulf states folks and our country that our estuaries and marshes and other wetlands provide recreational, commercial and economic opportunity for them.

The NWF release told the world, “As the Council moves from planning to implementation, it should work with Louisiana to achieve the vision set forth in its Coastal Master Plan. A vibrant Gulf of Mexico starts with a strong Mississippi River Delta.”

We have no more important task today. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work.