HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Restoring the Gulf by helping inland property owners improve the conditions of wooded areas was the focus of an announcement in Hancock County on Monday. The announcement was held on Jim Currie's property.
"What I envision is if you have a good healthy ecosystem inland, you're going to have a healthy Gulf of Mexico," Currie said.
Currie owns 1,500 acres in north Hancock County. The land was once made up of pastures, but is now covered with long leaf pine trees. Currie hosted state and national officials on his land as the USDA unveiled a $328 million Gulf Restoration strategy that all starts inland. The mission of the plan is to make the water that runs into the Gulf as clean as possible.
"What happens here matters for what happens in the Gulf," said Robert Bonnie, Under Secretary USDA Natural Resources and Environment.
Bonnie said well maintained forest land can prevent sentiment and pollution from getting into water ways that eventually flow into the Gulf.
"We're going to work with land owners to protect ecosystems like the long leaf pine ecosystem we see here, wetlands and other ecosystems," Bonnie said. "That can be important, not only for the habitat here, but for protecting water quality in the Gulf."
The federal initiative is designed to encourage land owners in the five Gulf States to plant trees, put up fencing, and control under brush with prescribed burns. Currie is glad to help out.
"There's a limit to what you can do in the Gulf because what's there is already there," Currie said. "You've really got to go up stream and make sure what goes down stream to the Gulf is as pure as it can be."
The cost of the initiative comes entirely from tax dollars. But Bonnie said he believes if money is spent now on improving the Gulf ecosystem it will prevent problems in the future, such as the loss of fisheries.
Learn more about the Gulf of Mexico Initiative Restoration Strategy here: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/national/programs/initiatives/?cid=stelprdb1046039