The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is seeking $500 million to restore the Gulf of Mexico’s critical coastal watershed.
The agency will use the money to expand the project’s scope and cost, increase the number of trees planted, and increase their distribution across the region, according to the plan released on Tuesday.
It also will be more transparent and better coordinate with other federal agencies to ensure that all funds go to conservation projects, the EPA said in a release.
The project would focus on the Gulf Coast’s coastal wetlands, which provide essential water quality, wildlife habitat, and drinking water to people living and working along the Gulf’s coast.
The restoration of these vital ecosystems is critical to the stability of the Gulf, which is now losing more than 1 million square miles of water a day due to climate change, according the plan.
The plan calls for planting 3,000 trees annually, with the most valuable trees being those that have the most natural and desirable characteristics, such as shade and shade-loving branches, the Environmental Protection Foundation (EPA Foundation) said in its statement.
“These trees also are an integral part of the local ecosystem, providing food and shelter, pollinating flowers and fruits, and helping protect beaches and waters,” the foundation said.
The restoration project would include planting around 1,600 new trees per year, the foundation added.
The EPA said that each tree planted would generate a benefit of $10,000.
“This is an important first step to helping to restore and restore the natural and ecological value of the coast’s coastal habitats,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in the release.
“Together, we can help the Gulf and its communities return to health and prosperity.”
The EPA has already spent $200 million in restoration projects in the Gulf to restore coastal wetlands.
Last month, the agency awarded a $500,000 grant to the EPA Foundation for an ambitious $4.5 billion project to restore some of the region’s most critical habitat, including the Gulf.
The agency’s goal is to use the $500m to plant 3,500 trees annually in the region by 2020, the first step of a more ambitious restoration plan.