On April 20th, 2010, BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling platform exploded offshore, killing 11 workers, and pumping over 170 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 straight days - making it America’s largest environmental catastrophe in history.
This crisis called critical attention to the hard fact that oil and gas exploration activities do not come without costs. And in this case, the costs were severe. Recognizing the disasterwater quality, fisheries, and Gulf communities, NWF quickly swung into action, putting into effect a comprehensive response plan. A central base of operations was quickly set up in Venice, Louisiana. NWF then mobilized all institutional elements across the organization to help implement this response strategy.
The Gulf region is home to some of the largest and most important wetland ecosystems in North America, which provide essential habitat for waterfowl, migratory songbirds, fresh and saltwater fish, and a host of endangered or threatened species like the Kemp's ridley sea turtles. Once the oil came ashore, NWF launched a volunteer surveillance effort to help spot and report oil-damaged wildlife and habitat. Once the well was capped, we turned our efforts to enhancing and restoring habitat needed by affected species like migratory songbirds and waterfowl. Understanding that a disaster of this magnitude will involve years of recovery, NWF is now calling on Congress to dedicate penalties BP and others will owe to Gulf-wide restoration and to strengthen regulation of the industry to ensure that such a disaster will not happen again.
The recovery and restoration needs of the Gulf will go on for decades and NWF will be there for the duration. The following are some examples of what we have accomplished thus far.
For over 180 days, NWF staged over 60 boat tours of the Gulf impact zone from our Venice, La base, bringing waves of scientists, news reporters, wildlife professionals, community and conservation leaders, and national, state, and local elected officials to impact zone to experience first-hand the nature of the disaster, effectiveness of the spill response, and environmental and public health issues at play.
Key Result - many scientific professionals, decision makers, and journalists gained first- hand critical understanding of the Gulf disaster situations, what it means, where it is happening, how it is evolving, how it affects wildlife, food chains, and natural systems, how effective response activities are, etc. Much of this gained knowledge was conveyed by these experts directly (or through NWF) to the public.
NWF provided critical funding to the Sea Turtle Conservancy in Florida to enhance its capabilities to relocate sea turtle eggs and adult sea turtles away from the impact zone.
Key Result - overall sea turtle recovery was enhanced particularly for future turtle generations.
NWF provided independent assessment of the nature of the gulf disaster and clean up response in over 7000 documented news stories.
Key Result - tens of millions of individual readers, viewers, and listeners of the 7,000 news stories got objective information about the nature of the disaster impact on wildlife and nature, and adequacy of BP/government response activities.
NWF trained over 300 volunteers in 25 teams to help with wildlife distress surveillance throughout the Gulf region during the first phase of the uncapped spill. Volunteers filed more than 5000 reports on wildlife sightings, oil slick impacts, and problems they encountered with BP's distressed wildlife helpline.
Key Result - Volunteers expanded the Government wildlife surveillance capabilities during the early phase of the spill, and identified early breakdowns in BP's Wildlife Rescue Hotline that were corrected.
NWF President and CEO, Larry Schweiger, testified on May 19th at one of the first congressional hearings on the Gulf disaster, (the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee) where he called for government commitment to Gulf restoration, expanded wildlife protection efforts and a national transition to clean energy.
Key Result - NWF provided Congressional members first hand objective information about the scope of Gulf impact and response needs during the early phase of the disaster.
On July 28th NWF released (in partnership with National Audubon Society and the Environmental Defense Fund) the report Common Ground a blueprint plan for Gulf Coast restoration. NWF then hosted a congressional staff briefing on the report, and engaged Congressional members to address Gulf Coast restoration and funding in oil spill reform legislation.
Key Result - the paper and the briefing was instrumental in the House of Representatives approving a provision in HR 3534 that would have dedicated $1.2 billion in BP Clean Water Act penalties to Gulf Restoration
Over 53,000 citizens (NWF members and non-members) and 21 companies, donated funds to NWF Gulf Disaster response efforts. Additionally over 200 fundraising events like concerts and walkathons were staged by supporters to benefit our efforts (see details on one enterprising young childstand in the downloadable version of this report.)
Key Result - The public reaction to the Gulf disaster was deep and wide and people wanted to help in whatever way they could. The donations helped NWF accomplish many of the actions outlined here, as well as give us capacity to continue working on the long-term problems that will last many years to come.
NWF invested in Mobile Bay oyster reef restoration project that provides critical un-oiled nursery habitat for numerous finfish and shellfish stocks, while more affected areas are cleaned.
Key Result - This project helps the recovery of wildlife populations impacted by oil pollution and serves as an investment in expanding long-term wildlife habitat in the Gulf.
NWF launched an aggressive campaign for reform of oil and gas leasing practices in the wake of the spill - including Capitol Hill briefings featuring prominent scientists, numerous editorials and tens of thousands of phone calls and emails supporting comprehensive oil spill legislation.
Key Result - The House passed the Consolidated Land, Energy and Aquatic Resources Act on July 30th, which has a number of important provisions that will prevent future spills, increase oil company liability, improved safety and environmental regulatory standards.