The D.C.-based National Fish and Wildlife Foundation has announced that it expects to receive nearly $2.4 billion over five years from BP as part of a $4 billion settlement negotiated by the U.S. Department of Justice to resolve federal charges stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The agreement must be approved by a federal judge before it becomes final.
The funds must be used to support environmental restoration, preservation, and conservation efforts along the Gulf Coast. According to the Washington Post, the settlement also stipulates that at least half the money be used to restore barrier islands and coastal habitat in Louisiana, and that the remaining funds be split between Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, and Texas, with the first three states receiving equal shares and Texas getting 16 percent.
The justice department's decision to funnel billions of dollars to one environmental organization has spurred discussion among environmentalists and others with a vested interest in the decision. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) told the Post that she feels the money is being used "in a creative way to leverage it with private dollars" but would have preferred that the recipient organization's board have more than one person from a Gulf Coast community. "I would have liked to have seen a little more representation from the Gulf Coast," said Landrieu, "but at least the work they've done along the [coast] has been very good."
Since 2010, NFWF has invested some $22.9 million in Gulf Coast restoration efforts. The twenty-eight-year-old foundation, which relies on government funds as well as contributions from private philanthropies and corporations, has managed more than $2 billion in conservation programs nationwide, the Post reports.
"We will work collaboratively with government and private sector stakeholders to ensure these funds are spent effectively and transparently to achieve the best possible outcomes for the Gulf ecosystem, consistent with the terms of the settlement," said NFWF executive director and CEO Jeff Trandahl. "To achieve this, we will rely heavily on our established, science-based strategy for identifying and selecting appropriate projects to receive funding, all aimed at ensuring a healthy future for our country's richest marine ecosystem."