Spring 2009 Gulf Currents Newsletter

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Inside this issue: GRN Responds to Threats to Gulf Fisheries, Gulf States: Clean Up Your Act! , Gulf Gathering, Mulch Matters

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15th Anniversary Issue:
Gulf States: Clean Up Your Act Page 3 Gulf Gathering 2009 Page 5

Spring 2009
Mulch Matters Page 6

GRN Responds to Threats to Gulf Fisheries
From Florida’s Gulf coast to the Mississippi Sound, GRN is ghting to save marine wildlife from dangerous shing practices. Joining with our conservation partners, GRN has responded quickly to new scienti c studies which estimated that Florida’s bottom longline shery injured or killed nearly 1,000 threatened and endangered sea turtles in a recent 1 ½ year period. The bottom longline shery uses four to ten mile long heavy cables, with thousands of baited hooks coming o the mainline, and targets grouper and tile sh species. Faced with a slow government response to the federal study, GRN and our partners have noti ed the National Marine Fisheries Service of our intent to l le suit if action is not taken immediately. Seven hundred and ninety-nine loggerhead turtles were estimated to be impacted by the shery, more than three times as many as the shery is permitted to a ect. Loggerhead nesting populations in Florida have dropped by over 40 percent the past ten years, and the large numbers a ected by the longline shery is likely contributing to this signi cant decline. We are urging sheries managers to act immediately to address this problem. Further up the coast, another shing industry is known to have signi cant impacts on marine wildlife, with similar inaction from sheries managers. In Mississippi, GRN and our partners have launched a campaign for sensible management of the menhaden industry under the banner “Save the Bait.” Menhaden (also called pogies) is the second largest shery by weight in the country, yet it operates in the Gulf without any catch limits. The shery is known to capture huge numbers of juvenile sharks as bycatch (unintended catch), with one sheries Menhaden Bycatch scientist estimating that over 850,000 sharks are caught by the industry every year. The industry is also known to interact with bottle nosed dolphin, recently highlighted by the Government Accountability O ce as a marine mammal species with insu cient protection from commercial shing impacts.

Known to be a critical forage species for everything from red sh to pelicans, menhaden play a crucial role in the food web. The Save the Bait coalition is concerned that no mechanism exists to keep the menhaden industry from removing too many sh from the Mississippi Sound, negatively impacting the dolphins, tarpon, seabirds and game sh that rely on them. At a recent meeting of the Mississippi Commission on Marine Resources, a representative of Omega Protein, the largest menhaden company in the U.S. urged the Commission to take no action to further manage the industry. Despite concerns voiced by the Commission’s chair, that sentiment carried the day. GRN will continue to advocate for an ecosystem-based approach to managing this shery, with observers on all boats to limit bycatch.

Photo Credit: Richard Condrey, LSU

Photo Credit: David Burdick, NOAA's Coral Kingdom Collection

Green Sea Turtle

A MESSAGE FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

15 Years and counting...
In 2009 the GRN is celebrating the 15th anniversary of our e orts to empower people to protect and restore the resources of the Gulf of Mexico region. I have been with the GRN all but one of those years and cannot help but marvel at the changes that have occurred. When I started, I was one person in an o ce in Louisiana trying to work with communities to address the myriad of coastal issues they faced. Now the GRN has 14 sta , with o ces in Florida, Louisiana and Texas, and has ve active campaigns focused on protecting water resources, strengthening the resilience of coastal communities, pressing for state action to reduce the potential impacts of global warming, protecting endangered species, and advocating for better management of the Gulf’s sheries. I have often been asked what I think is the reason we have persevered over the years. I believe that there is no single answer to that question. First and foremost, as our name implies, we understand that coalitions, particularly when they involve representatives of diverse interests, have a far greater impact that any single interest group. Even the most well meaning decision-makers are more likely to make a tough decision when diverse interests speak with a single voice. For example, the hugely successful campaign opposing environmentally destructive Lique ed Natural Gas (LNG) facilities in the o shore waters of the Gulf involved a coalition of commercial and recreational shermen, environmental groups and other interests. Second, we focus our work on issues that pose a signi cant and long-term threat to the Gulf on which we believe the GRN can make a di erence. Many of these issues are complex, often controversial, and sometimes unpopular issues that no one else is addressing. Before we decide to focus on an issue, we review the available science, confer with experts on the issue, and consult with our attorneys to ensure that the positions we take are supported by the best available science and law. Third, we work to develop activist leaders in the communities where we work. As our mission implies, we believe in empowering individuals and communities to more e ectively address the environmental threats that they face. Strengthening the ability of concerned citizens to address threats to the health of the Gulf is critical to its long-term health. Finally, we have chosen not to accept funding from polluting industry and government agencies, ensuring that we feel no need to temper our messages. This gives us the freedom to address some of the most fundamental environmental issues facing our region. I think in the long-term, this policy has earned us a reputation for speaking truth to power and as a result has also earned us the respect of both our adversaries and our friends, and made us a stronger force in the ght to protect the natural resources of the Gulf. I would like to thank all of our members, donors, and coalition partners. We would not exist and could not have achieved the successes we have without your support. I have been honored to serve as the Executive Director of the GRN for fourteen years, and believe that the GRN will continue to be an e ective advocate for the health of the Gulf and the sustainability of its coastal communities for many years to come.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Nancy Adams New Orleans, LA Teresa Carillo Longview, TX Robert Hastings, Chair Montgomery, AL Brooke Himot Tampa, FL Allen McReynolds Mobile, AL Jose Miranda, Treasurer New Orleans, LA Juan Parras Houston, TX Bob Schae er Sanibel, FL Louis Skrmetta Gulfport, MS Susan Spicer New Orleans, LA Page Williams Houston, TX Robert Wiygul Ocean Springs, MS

STAFF
Cynthia Sarthou, Executive Director Aaron Viles, Campaign Director Matt Rota, Water Resources Program Director Je Grimes, Water Resources Assistant Director Dan Favre, Campaign Organizer Joe Murphy, Florida Program Director Briana Kerstein, Special Projects Coordinator Casey DeMoss-Roberts, Special Projects Coordinator Raleigh Hoke, Mississippi Organizer Jonathan Henderson, Louisiana Global Warming Organizer Collin Thomas, Campus Organizer Irene Dowling, O ce Manager

Cynthia Sarthou Executive Director

Volume 13, Issue 1

Gulf States: Clean Up Your Act!
The Clean Water Act is the chief law that protects the health of rivers, lakes, wetlands, and estuaries in the United States. Passed in 1972, the Act’s primary goal is to restore and protect the integrity of the nation’s waters. However, many of our rivers, bayous, and bays in the Gulf South remain polluted. The GRN has undertaken a review of how important policies and regulations related to the Clean Water Act are being administered in the Gulf South, and GRN will soon be releasing The Clean Up Your Act, Gulf State Report Card.
Photo Credit: GRN

The sobering results of our research show that every Gulf State fails to incorporate vital aspects of our nation’s most important clean water law. Some of the key ndings are: • All Gulf States fail to apply clean water standards to all water bodies in the state. This failure means that some water bodies in each state are not safe for human contact or sh and wildlife. Sewage discharge near Jackson, MS

• No Gulf States have set limits on nitrogen and phosphorous pollution in rivers and lakes and all have failed to follow plans to establish such limits. Nitrogen and phosphorous pollution have long been a problem in the Gulf States and have caused ecological havoc on various waters, the most notorious examples being the Everglades in Florida and the massive Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico. • States need to improve public health policies to protect the public from disease causing bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Gulf States currently fail to use the best indicators to test for pathogen pollution. • Public participation must be augmented. The Clean Water Act requires states to hold public hearings “from time to time,” but at minimum, every three years to discuss state water quality standards. All states have missed deadlines in implementing this process called the “Triennial Review.” Furthermore, all states could improve transparency by making more agency documents available online and provide greater public participation through data monitoring. The Gulf of Mexico, as much as any other place in the country, deserves clean water. The rst step to achieve clean water throughout Gulf States is to have appropriate policies and regulations. Unfortunately, the Gulf States and EPA regions have too often failed to take a leadership role. We hope that this report will not only highlight areas for improvement, but also help spur action in Gulf States to realize the long awaited goals of the Clean Water Act. We have valuable and irreplaceable water resources in the Gulf, and we hope that these resources will receive the full protection they deserve.

Apalachicola River, FL

The full report will be released in March. Keep an eye on healthygulf.org for any updates!

Citizens Demand Climate Action From Gulf Of Mexico Alliance
Local elected o cials, conservation leaders, and citizens concerned about global warming held a press conference in Tampa Bay, Florida to ask the Gulf of Mexico Alliance to follow the lead of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and make addressing climate change a priority. The Gulf of Mexico Alliance is a partnership of the ve Gulf States whose mission is to protect the health and wealth of the Gulf of Mexico. The Alliance has released a draft 5 year action plan listing 6 priority issues and is hosting public input workshops across the Gulf of Mexico. Unfortunately, climate change is not one of their priority issues. Representatives from the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Sierra Club, Ocean Conservancy, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Gulf Restoration Network joined St. Petersburg City Councilman Karl Nurse in calling for real action and planning to address the causes and impacts of climate change in the Gulf of Mexico region. “Climate change is a direct threat to Florida’s tourist economy as our world class beaches are altered or lost to rising sea levels.” - St. Petersburg City Councilman Karl Nurse ...continued on page 7 Spring 2009

Photo Credit: Apalachicola Riverkeeper

m rch
7th Nature Coast Vision/Strategy Gathering and Workshop 12:30pm to 5:30pm at the Paramount Plaza and Hotel in Gainesville, Fl. You can RSVP by emailing Joe Murphy at [email protected] or call him at 352.583.0870.

Aveda Salons are Taking Action for a Healthy Gulf
Visit your local Aveda salon this April and help the GRN continue the ght for healthy waters. Last year, Aveda salons across the southeast and their distributors, The Salon People and IT ONLY TAKES BABY STEPS JOIN AVEDA FOR EARTH MONTH 2009 the Neill Corporation, raised over $400,000 for our e orts to protect waters across the Gulf region. We’re proud to partner with a successful company that walks the walk to protect our environment.

pril
3-4 14th Annual Tulane Law School Summit on Environmental Law & Policy New Orleans, LA Call 504.865.5939 for more information. 5th New Orleans Earth Day Festival from 12pm -7pm near Bayou St. John. Go to http://www.labucketbrigade.org/ 20-22 Alabama Watershed Leadership Conference 2009 will be held at Camp McDowell, AL. For more information, contact Elizabeth Salter at [email protected] or 205.322.6395 ext 100. 22nd Earth Day

CLEAN WATER

And this year, they’ll be encouraging others to join them in “Walks for Water” that will be held across our region. From Charlotte to Orlando to Houston, salon sta will be hosting walks designed to raise money for the GRN and awareness in their community about the need to ensure healthy waters throughout the Gulf. Stay tuned to www.HealthyGulf.org for more details about walks in a city near you! The GRN extends a heartfelt thanks to all of the hardworking Aveda salon sta and their clients for everything they do to make Earth Month a success. Their contributions will support our work to keep our waterways clean by protecting wetlands and keeping pollution such as sewage and fertilizer runo out of our waters. Reasons to Keep Our Waters Clean: • Over 60% of all waterways in the US empty into the Gulf of Mexico. • The EPA estimates that up to 3.5 million Americans get sick every year from sewage pollution. • The Gulf of Mexico has lost approximately 50% of its wetlands and those remaining are under increasing threat. Wetlands help lter pollutants out of rivers and lakes. • Up to 210 million pounds of fertilizer runoff makes its way into the Gulf every year, creating a lifeless, oxygen-starved Dead Zone up to 8,000 square miles in size.

may
GRN Canvass Begins See article on back page. 8-9 Gulf Gathering 2009 Camp Beckwith - Weeks Bay, Alabama Attend workshops, trainings, and speakers designed to strengthen our ght to protect the natural resources along the Gulf. And, help GRN celebrate our 15th anniversary! Contact Briana Kerstein at [email protected] for more details and registration information. 29- June 1st River Rally 2009 Baltimore, MD Go to http://www.rivernetwork.org/rn/rally/ for more information.

Photo Credit: Southwings

Photo Credit: GRN

Sewage out ow near Jackson, MS

Florida’s Nature Coast

Volume 12, Issue 3

GULF COMMUNITY
Gulf Gathering 2009: A Gulf-wide conference for coastal advocates and organizers concerned about the Gulf of Mexico. If you're interested in Climate Change, Coastal Habitat Resiliency, Wetlands and Cypress Swamps Conservation, Healthy Waters or would like to meet other folks from across the ve Gulf states who want to Protect the Gulf - this is the environmental conference for you. From successful fundraising to e ective on-line organizing to managing volunteers - you’ll also get the chance to sharpen your skills and become a better activist for the Gulf. Get a Bird’s Eye View of Cypress Forests Southwings will also be hosting ights on Friday morning, May 8th, on a rst-come, rst-serve basis. Sign up when you register to get a chance to check out local cypress forests in coastal Alabama from the air. Then join your fellow ight participants during the conference to learn how you can help protect our cypress forests along the Gulf. Go to www.HealthyGulf.org today and click on the icon featured on the right to register and see the full agenda. Scholarships will be available to a limited number of participants so complete the form on the registration page now to apply. For more information, contact Briana Kerstein at [email protected] or 504-525-1528 x208.

GRN Hosts its 4th Students United for a Healthy Gulf Leadership Conference
This January 23-25, the Gulf Restoration Network hosted the Students United for A Healthy Gulf Leadership Conference at Tulane University in New Orleans. The group of 22 student leaders attending came from across the Gulf Coast in order to gain the knowledge, skills, and inspiration to be e ective advocates for a healthy Gulf. On Friday evening, after an introduction by Executive Director, Cyn Sarthou, everyone enjoyed a po-boy dinner and continued to build the community of students working on Gulf environmental issues. Saturday consisted of issue brie ngs from GRN sta , followed by workshops to develop grassroots organizing skills, such as petitioning, tabling, and public speaking. Assisting the workshops were experienced GRN interns Jennifer Pipitone, Liz Doyaga, and Sunshine Bond. Conference participants had the opportunity to get practical experience petitioning on Tulane's and Loyola's campuses.

Photo Credit: GRN

Student activists on a guided tour in Cane Bayou, LA

Sunday capped o the weekend with a canoe trip along Cane Bayou that feeds into Lake Pontchartrain, with guidance from tour director Byron Almquist. Students got to witness rst hand the natural beauty o ered by Louisiana, while also seeing the unintended consequences of reckless development on our wetlands. With this inspiration, we held an impromptu Save Our Cypress rally at a Home Depot in Covington to protest the unsustainable production of cypress mulch. Many thanks to Canoe and Trail Adventure for donating the guided canoe trip, and to Whole Foods for providing breakfast. Most of all, thanks to all the dedicated student activists who work with GRN to defend our Gulf!

Photo Credit: GRN

Student activists at a workshop

Fall 2008

Mulch Matters Say NO to Cypress Mulch
It’s spring! Time to dig your hands into garden dirt and see your owers bloom. GRN would like to remind everyone to say NO to cypress mulch and to ask Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Wal-Mart to only sell sustainable mulches. There have been great victories for the cypress, but the ght isn’t over. The Save Our Cypress Coalition successfully halted destructive logging in cypress wetlands of southern Louisiana! Monitoring ights show that Wal-Mart’s announcement to no longer sell cypress mulch bagged, harvested, or manufactured in Louisiana, along with Lowe’s and Home Depot commitments to coastal Louisiana, have made a real impact. Thanks to your phone calls, emails, talks with managers, and support for the campaign, we have saved thousands of acres of cypress in Louisiana.

Photo Crfedit: Atchafalaya Basin Keeper

Entire cypress forests are being clear-cut to make cypress mulch

Unfortunately, on your next visit to Home Depot, Lowe’s, or Wal-Mart, you will still see unsustainable cypress mulch on the shelves. Endangered forests in states like Florida, Alabama, and Georgia continue to be destroyed solely to produce this disposable product. On top of that, logging special interest groups are pushing the companies to rescind the good decisions they’ve made in Louisiana.
Photo Crfedit: Joe Davis, Creative Loa ng

GRN and the Save Our Cypress Coalition continue to call on Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Wal-Mart to live up to their environmental commitments by permanently ending the sale of unsustainable cypress mulch, no matter where it is logged. On December 4th, Campaign Organizer, Dan Favre, and volunteers hosted a crab boil outside the Home Depot corporate headquarters in Atlanta, GA to protest cypress mulch. While no executives accepted our invitation to our crab boil, we were able to deliver over 10,000 petition signatures and get media coverage. Groups in Georgia continue to push their neighbor, Home Depot, to save cypress forests and wetlands.

Dan Favre, GRN Campaign Organizer, protests cypress mulch with other activvists outside the Home Depot headquarters in Atlanta, GA.

Florida’s Nature Coast Campaign Hits High Gear in 2009!
2009 will be a pivotal year for Florida’s Nature Coast. Major projects that could shape the future of this region will come to a head this year, and the fate of one of the most ecologically important areas left in the Gulf of Mexico hangs in the balance. Gulf Restoration Network has been working on Nature Coast issues since we opened our Florida O ce in June of 2007. The work we have done and the foundation we have laid to protect this amazing place will be tested as mines, developments, paper mills, and huge new road networks are poised for permits or approvals this year. What is at stake if these projects are approved is staggering. Florida’s Nature Coast, comprised of the coastal counties along Florida’s Gulf Coast from Pasco County to Wakulla County, is one of the longest pristine and mostly undeveloped coastal wetlands systems left anywhere in the Gulf. Over a hundred miles of seagrass beds, wetlands, coastal hammocks, and coastal marsh comprise this ecological treasure. This is ground zero in terms of protecting what is left of the Gulf Coast of Florida. We continue in 2009 to build our Nature Coast coalition and to deepen and strengthen our advocacy for this region by making saving the Nature Coast a statewide issue. In March of this year, activists from around Florida will gather in Gainesville, Florida to develop a strategic vision for what we want the Nature Coast to look like, and how we get there. The Nature Coast is one of Florida’s last frontiers, and we are on the front lines in the ght to protect it, as it is, for future generations. Volume 13, Issue 1

GULF FEATURE
Salt Marsh Wetlands
by: Robert W. Hastings, Ph.D GRN Board Chair One of the major goals of the Gulf Restoration Network is to protect remaining wetlands along the Gulf Coast. Wetlands in general are important as habitat for wildlife and sh, and coastal wetlands, are especially valuable. Salt marshes are de ned as broad expanses of marsh plants between upland areas and the water, dominated by several species of grasses (such as Spartina) and rushes (such as Juncus). Because of their location, coastal wetlands have been recognized as a signi cant bu er providing protection for inland developments from hurricanes and other coastal storms. They also provide food and habitat for many resident species and nursery habitat for the juveniles of many marine species. The shallow marsh waters and tidal streams and ponds within the marshes provide important protected habitat for the juveniles of many marine shes, crabs, and shrimp. Other species are permanent residents within these usually brackish coastal waters, such as the abundant killi sh (Fundulus and others), named for their association with estuarine ditches and canals (kill in Dutch). Many birds, such as herons, egrets, and rails, are characteristic residents of coastal marsh areas. In addition, the extremely productive marsh plants contribute to the estuarine food webs in the form of bits and pieces of plant tissue (or detritus). Loss of these wetlands means a loss to the sheries that rely upon them. Unfortunately, coastal development usually means the loss of these valuable coastal wetlands. In the past wetlands have been considered worthless and were readily destroyed. Often salt marshes were eliminated to give better open-water access to adjacent development projects. Or in many cases, coastal wetlands were dredged and lled to provide additional high ground for development near the water. Many estuaries near urban areas of the Gulf coast have lost most of their wetlands to develoment. Even today, with continuing pressure from coastal development, wetlands are being destroyed in spite of legislation intended to protect them. The political goal of “no net loss of wetlands” should become simply “no loss of wetlands”, since those that are lost are almost never restored. Join with the Gulf Restoration Network in helping to protect our remaining coastal areas. Spring 2009 Salt Marsh Citizens Demand Climate Action... continued from page 3 The organizations gathered also released a Gulf-wide sign-on letter to Florida Gov. Charlie Crist from over 30 organizations urging him to do all that he can as a leader in the Gulf of Mexico region and to continue his excellent work on climate change issues. The letter also asks him to urge both the Gulf of Mexico Alliance, and other Gulf state governors, to follow his lead. To nd out if a public workshop is scheduled near you , contact Casey DeMoss Roberts at [email protected].

Even though the Gulf is ground zero for climate change impacts, such as stronger hurricanes, rising sea levels and ocean acidi cation, it’s going to take national leadership to secure our climate. Right now, across the country, hundreds of organizations, leaders and everyday citizens are ready to tackle global warming. GRN is partnering with the 1Sky campaign to help focus the power of millions of concerned Americans on a single goal: bold federal action by 2010 that can reverse global warming. The 1Sky Solutions are grounded in scienti c necessity—they are the bottom line of what's needed to dramatically reduce carbon emissions while maximizing energy e ciency, renewable energy and breakthrough technologies. They also represent signi cant economic promise. By pivoting to a clean energy economy, we can relieve our dependence on foreign oil, unlock the potential of sustainable industry, usher in a new era of prosperity and green jobs, and help protect the natural resources of the Gulf of Mexico. The 1Sky Solutions are: • CREATE 5 MILLION GREEN JOBS and pathways out of poverty by rebuilding and refueling America with a comprehensive energy e ciency mobilization including immediate investments in a clean-energy infrastructure. • REDUCE GLOBAL WARMING POLLUTION at least 35% below current levels by 2020, and at least 80% by 2050, in line with the best science available. • RE-POWER AMERICA by imposing a moratorium on new coal plants that emit global warming pollution and replacing dirty fuels with 100% renewable energy. If you want to be part of GRN’s collaboration with the 1Sky campaign, please send an email to Jonathan Henderson at [email protected] for more information.

Photo Credit: http://marinebio.org

GULF RESTORATION

NETWORK

Gulf Restoration Network 338 Baronne Street, Suite 200 New Orleans, LA 70112 Louisiana O ce: 504.525.1528 Florida O ce: 813.468.0870 www.healthygulf.org

Celebrating 15 Years of Action for a Healthy Gulf
Opening the Door to A Healthy Gulf
As summer approaches, GRN is once again gearing up to hit the streets to engage tens of thousands of citizens in doorstep conversations about protecting and restoring the Gulf of Mexico. We’ll be building public support for our campaigns to save the Gulf’s incredible natural resources, and we’ll be recruiting members and raising money for Gulf Restoration Network. Starting in May, keep an eye out for a young, dedicated activist in your neighborhood and spend a few minutes with them to show your love for the Gulf. And you don’t have to wait for them to support GRN - become a sustaining member today at www.healthygulf.org!
Photo Credit: Je rey Dubinsky

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GRN Canvasser in action

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