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December 2010 cover image The Oil Spill & Texas

From the Pen of Carter P. Smith

For those of us deeply concerned about the natural world, there has been no greater drama in recent memory than what transpired with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It is a drama that keeps unfolding and ensures that the Gulf States and their citizens, particularly those with direct economic and personal ties, will remain riveted to the ramifications of the spill’s ultimate biological and economic aftermath.

The details of the spill are well known by now, so I won’t attempt to repeat them here. In comparison to the initial documented impacts felt by our sister states along the Gulf, Texas was unquestionably on the seemingly “lucky” side of the spill. But, that most assuredly does not mean we are fully out of the woods yet. The long-term effects on the Gulf’s abundant shared resources, particularly the subsurface ones such as larval and juvenile cohorts of finfish and shellfish, won’t be fully understood for some time.

The concept of shared resources is an important one because the Gulf of Mexico is much more than the simple sum of the parts along the shoreline of five states. It is a grand, interconnected water body that spans five states and portions of three countries. The runoff from more than 50 percent of the continental United States’ land base ultimately drains into the Gulf’s waters. Commercial fishermen move back and forth between the waters of the Gulf in pursuit of oysters, finfish, and shrimp. So, too, do numerous species of fish and wildlife, from red snapper to redfish to sea turtles to brown pelicans to waterfowl. In short, what happens in the Gulf, particularly during a spill of this scale and magnitude, can impact its entirety, including Texas.

Your state response team has worked tirelessly since the day of the spill. The Texas General Land Office capably led the incident response team along the coast and coordinated all monitoring and spill-related activities among a multitude of local, state, federal, and private entities. Teams of biologists from TPWD, the Texas General Land Office and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, along with their counterparts in other states, have been studiously monitoring short-term and long-term impacts to fish and wildlife resources. They have also worked collaboratively to release back into the wild rehabilitated species of wildlife, such as brown pelicans. Looking ahead, all those agencies, including ours, will play an important role in developing appropriate ecological restoration projects to help compensate from the impacts of the spill.

The future of the Gulf of Mexico lies squarely in the hands of us all who live, work, recreate and depend upon its bounty. Let’s make sure we take good care of it from here on out.

Thanks for caring about Texas’ wild things and wild places. They need you more than ever.

 

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