Shell Marine Habitat Program Takes Gulf Guardian HonorsSeven out of 18 awards go to Texas projects; 1st place honors taken in 4 categories
The Shell Marine Habitat Program, developed by Shell Oil Company in partnership with the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, is one of several 2001 Gulf Guardian award winners from Texas that was recognized at the opening day luncheon for the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC) Environmental Trade Fair on Monday.
Gulf Guardian awards stem from the Gulf of Mexico Program, a partnership formed in 1988 to develop strategies to protect, restore, and maintain the health and productivity of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem. Entries came from the five states bordering the Gulf of Mexico--Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.
Commissioner John M. Baker of the TNRCC said, "We do have a lot to be proud of here in Texas." Of the 18 Gulf Guardian awards presented, 7 went to Texas projects, and 4 of those winning efforts, including the Shell Marine Habitat Program, received 1st place honors.
EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman said, "There are a wonderful variety of projects-- from seagrass and wetlands conservation efforts to marine life and reef fish protection--that are created by concerned individuals who sincerely want to preserve the beauty and vitality of the Gulf of Mexico. Their projects go a long way toward preserving the value of this natural treasure and we appreciate their hard work. The accomplishments of these award winners will help build on the successful initiatives already underway in the Gulf of Mexico program."
Accepting the 1st place award in the Business category was Albert Myres, Vice President of the Shell Oil Company Foundation.
A 5-year, $5-million conservation program launched in 1998, the Shell Marine Habitat Program has become the largest source of private conservation funding dedicated to the Gulf of Mexico. It involves the restoration of over 40,000 acres and the permanent protection of approximately 30,000 acres of critical wildlife habitat. Its projects involve about 3,000 people in conservation education and outreach efforts.
Through a grant to The Nature Conservancy, the program has enabled the acquisition and permanent protection of coastal habitat on North Padre Island. The Shell Marine Habitat Program also has been a critical source of funding for sea turtle conservation work along the South Padre Island National Seashore.
Additional support has helped the Galveston Bay Foundation in its saltmarsh restoration projects. Grants to academic and environmental organizations in Louisiana and Florida have helped develop techniques to improve the success rate of restoring aquatic plants.
EPA Regional Administrator Gregg Cooke said, "It is exciting to see so many outstanding Texas projects being recognized by the Gulf program. It highlights everyone's commitment to protecting Texas' beaches and Gulf resources."
Gulf of Mexico Program Director Jim Giattina said, "We began the Gulf Guardian Awards to highlight and honor some of the partnerships and other projects that are helping the environment and water quality in Texas, other Gulf states, and in the Gulf of Mexico. We are all one Gulf community and have only one Gulf of Mexico. Projects like this are helping to protect our local coastal waters, which significantly contributes to the Gulf's beauty and value."
Texas contenders also finished in 1st place in Partnership, Non-Profit Organization, and Individual categories. Second place honors for Business and Nonprofit projects, and a 3rd place award for a Youth/Education project, also received recognition at the luncheon.
The Gulf of Mexico Program is underwritten by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is a non-regulatory, inclusive consortium of state and federal government agencies and representatives of the business and agricultural community, fishing industry, scientists, environmentalists, and community leaders from all five Gulf states. The Gulf Program seeks to improve the environmental health of the Gulf in concert with economic development.
Editor's Note: For more information about the Gulf Guardian Awards and the Gulf of Mexico Program, call Terry Hines Smith at 228-688-1159. For more information about the Shell Marine Habitat Program, call Karen Goelkel at 512-239-0046; pager 512-875-9213. For information about TNRCC and their participation in the Gulf of Mexico Program, call Andy Saenz at 512-239-5018.
All TNRCC news releases are available at http://www.tceq.state.tx.us/.
Please note: the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission is now known as the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.