Our Voice: Request for Action for Resilient Gulf Coast
March 2009 - The following letter to the US Senate and House of Representatives, urging federal leadership and support for the Gulf Coast region, was signed by two dozen foundations and nonprofit organizations, including The McKnight Foundation.
Dear Senator or Representative:
As leaders of charitable organizations, we are writing to express our growing concern about the security of people and property in the Gulf Coast region. A great many of America's national, regional and local foundations have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to support social, physical and environmental recovery efforts responding to recent natural disasters. These investments bolster billions of additional dollars and untold volunteer hours committed by corporations, governments, religious institutions, civic groups, and individuals - from all over the country - to rebuild and strengthen the region. We are concerned that without a more comprehensive approach to recovery, these billions invested are at grave risk.
The success of all our efforts will be undermined unless the federal government uses its authority to restore coastal areas in ways that make communities more resilient in the face of future storms. Otherwise, all of our investments in houses, health clinics, schools, and hospitals are likely to be jeopardized.
The breadth of our programs support work in your districts and in states across the nation to empower citizens and communities to shape a better future. In the Gulf Coast region, many local residents are keenly aware of the critical urgency of protecting and restoring coastal wetlands and other natural buffers that have protected the region for millennia. These natural areas critical to protection of the region are rapidly deteriorating and as a result leave many communities highly vulnerable to the next storm's force. At the same time, the loss of these natural defenses also undermines the economic and cultural foundations of these communities. We are concerned that this urgency is not being adequately recognized outside the region and among national leaders.
Recovery depends on far more than levees and manmade structures. Modem science has shown that healthy wetlands and marshes — nature's green infrastructure — not only attenuate the erosive impacts of floods and storm surge and serve to protect the integrity of flood control structures, but also support basic elements of the Gulf Coast economy. The federal government has a critical role in ensuring that all investments in human capacity and capital resources are protected by aggressive action to restore buffer areas and integrate effectively with built structures.
We urge you to provide strong leadership to assure a Gulf Coast recovery that protects the enormous public/private investments that have been made over the past three years. It is critical that we restore vital wetlands and other elements of environmental health to enable long term sustainability of communities and reduce the number of lives lost from future storms. The federal government has authority, responsibility and capability for restoration and maintenance of the Gulf Coast shoreline from Texas and Louisiana, through Mississippi and Alabama to Florida, as well as management of the Mississippi River which is integral for long-term rebuilding of land and natural infrastructure.
We would welcome the opportunity to brief you on the scale of investments we have made as well as what we believe to be viable and achievable strategies for resilient and enduring communities. We share mutual goals for lasting and sustained improvements to the economy, energy systems, and well-being of communities in the Gulf Coast region.