Our nation's coasts and estuaries are in serious trouble. The United States has lost 55 million acres of coastal and estuarine habitat along its coastline due to development, pollution, and other human-made and natural causes, and its coastal habitat continues to disappear at a rate of between 1.2 percent and 9 percent a year.
Please tell the new Administration and Congress how important coasts and estuaries are to our economy and wellbeing and urge them to protect and restore our nation's coasts and estuaries for future generations.
Healthy coasts and estuaries are essential to the nation's economy and wellbeing. The aesthetic beauty of coasts and estuaries inspires us, provides opportunities for recreation, and teaches us about the natural environment. Estuaries provide unmistakable economic value to our nation, supporting a disproportionately large share of economic output and population. Coasts and estuaries protect more than $800 billion of trade each year, tens of billions of dollars in recreational opportunities annually, and more than 45 percent of the nation's petroleum refining capacity.
In addition to their economic value, healthy estuaries provide critical ecological functions. They provide habitat for plants, fish and wildlife, support threatened and endangered species, and filter pollutants from water. Healthy estuaries and coasts also enable our shorelines to be more resilient to the impacts of climate change and sea level rise. Restored salt marshes protect communities from storms and floods and may reduce the need to build seawalls to protect developed shoreline areas against sea level rise. Estuaries also help counter climate change by capturing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it.
Our nation's coasts and estuaries are in serious trouble. Pollution has rendered 44 percent of tested U.S. estuaries and 12 percent of ocean shoreline waters unfit for uses such as swimming, fishing, or supporting aquatic life. An estimated two million U.S. dams block 600,000 miles of passage for thousands of coastal fish that try to reach native spawning grounds. And, the United States has lost 55 million acres of coastal and estuarine habitat along its coastline due to development, pollution, and other human-made and natural causes, and its coastal habitat continues to disappear at a rate of between 1.2 percent and 9 percent a year.
Our Vision for the Future
We envision healthy and abundant coastal and estuarine ecosystems on every coast of the United States, and a shared and common national effort to protect and restore these irreplaceable resources, and the communities and livelihoods that depend on them. We also envision a habitat restoration community that is a vibrant, diverse collection of tens of thousands of individuals, organizations, businesses, and government agencies working together to restore our coasts and vital estuaries. Together, this group of scientists, practitioners, engineers, volunteers, and others will have the capacity, support, knowledge, and expertise necessary to restore the health of our nation's coasts and estuaries.
How Do We Get There?
We the undersigned call on the new Administration and the 111th Congress to strengthen the nation's ability to restore and protect estuarine ecosystems by taking the following critical actions:
1. Increase the Pace and Scale of Restoration
The new Administration and the 111th Congress should provide capacity and funding to significantly increase the pace and scale of coastal and estuarine habitat restoration. The myriad of federal programs aimed at protecting and restoring coasts and estuaries has been underfunded. We urge the new Administration and Congress to show strong federal commitment to adequately invest in habitat restoration programs, and also to create innovative ways to support the management, protection, restoration, and understanding of coastal and ocean resources, such as through a national ocean trust fund.
2. Fulfill the Commitment to make Restoration a National Priority
The new Administration and the 111th Congress should fulfill the commitment to make coastal and estuarine habitat restoration a national priority. When Congress passed the Estuary Restoration Act in 2000, they recognized the importance of addressing the problems plaguing our nation's estuaries and restoring estuary habitat. This commitment, however, has not been fulfilled and the new Administration and Congress should ensure that restoration is a national priority, aggressive restoration goals are established, and funding is committed to achieve those goals. We also urge the new Administration to strengthen interagency coordination with the many federal agencies that play a role in habitat restoration.
3. Increase and Foster Restoration Partnerships
The new Administration and the 111th Congress should identify ways to increase and foster effective restoration partnerships that include diverse public and private organizations and agencies to maximize effectiveness at the federal, state, and local levels. Participation and coordination among diverse public and private groups and community and volunteer involvement are necessary components of successful habitat restoration, and they should be fostered by the new Administration and Congress.
4. Counter Climate Change Impacts through Restoration
The new Administration and the 111th Congress should actively pursue strategies to increase coastal and estuarine habitat restoration to strengthen the resilience of our coastlines to withstand and recover from climate change impacts and to increase carbon sequestration. Healthy estuaries help counter climate change by capturing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it. Additionally, communities that adequately protect the health of their natural coastal environment will be more resilient to the impacts of climate change.
5. Increase Support for Restoration Science, Monitoring, and Adaptive Management
The new Administration and the 111th Congress should increase support for restoration science, monitoring, and adaptive management. The habitat restoration community has the scientific knowledge to undertake complex restoration projects, but with a better understanding we will restore the health of our estuaries and coasts more effectively. The new Administration and Congress should provide support for restoration science and monitoring, which is critical to assessing restoration progress and success. An adaptive management approach should be encouraged and results should be communicated so that the restoration community can gain from collective experience.