A rugged, whitewater river flowing northward through deep canyons, the New River is among the oldest rivers on the continent. New River Gorge National River in West Virginia encompasses over 70,000 acres of land along the New River, is rich in cultural and natural history, and offers an abundance of scenic and recreational opportunities.
Big Southern Butte is one of two domes rising from a sea of basalt near the center of the eastern Snake River Plain in Idaho. The butte is one of the largest volcanic domes in the world, but at 300,000 years old it is also one of the youngest. Hikers who trek to the 7,550-foot high summit are rewarded with spectacular panoramic views. Photo by Devin Englestead, BLM Upper Snake Wildlife Biologist.
First light at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. Established in November 22, 1939, the refuge has provided a critical stopover and wintering spot for thousands of sandhill cranes, geese and other waterfowl for 75 years. Bosque del Apache's sandhill crane population has multiplied from 18 birds in the 1840s to more than 20,000 birds today. Photo by Kim Hang Dessoliers (www.sharetheexperience.org).
The Oil Pollution Act authorizes certain federal agencies, states and Indian tribes, collectively known as the Natural Resource Trustees (Trustees) to evaluate the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on natural resources. The Trustees are responsible for studying the effects of the spill through a process known as Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA). As part of this process, scientists from each Trustee entity work together to identify potential injuries to natural resources resulting from the spill and to design studies that will be used to determine and measure spill-related injuries (or impacts) to natural resources and their human uses. For the Deepwater Horizon spill, NRDA activities to date have been divided into categories that focus on specific organisms, habitats or uses. These categories include, for example:
Marine Mammals and sea turtles
Fish and shellfish
Deep water habitat Intertidal and near shore subtidal habitats (inlcuding sea grasses, mud flats, coral reefs)
Shorline habitats (including salt marsh, beaches, mangroves)
Human uses of natural resources (e.g., recreational fishing, boating, shoreline recreation, subsistence, cultural uses, etc.)
The first step in the NRDA process is known as the Preassessment Phase, Injury Assessment. During this phase, the Trustees will implement studies to evaluate the extent, severity, and duration of impacts from the oil spill. Some of these studies may need to go on for several years to fully assess the impacts to natural resources and determine the time needed for these resources to recover. Throughout the Preassessment and Injury Assessment, the Trustees will also consider how natural resources harmed by the spill may be restored through Restoration Planning, the final phase of the NRDA process. This phase will identify restoration actions which the Responsible Parties ("RPs"), including BP, will be required to pay for in order to fully compensate the public for the injuries to natural resources caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. This may be accomplished through the implementation by the RP of specific restoration projects or by the payment of money damages to the Trustees. The projects, whether performed by the RP or the Trustees may include direct restoration or rehabilitation of the injured resources, or replacement or acquisition of resources equivalent to those injured.
The Trustees have and will continue to release study plans developed over the course of the spill. The process for development of each plan reflects input and advice from experienced Trustee scientists and resource managers as well as leading experts from outside the Trustee entities, including scientists who specialize in studying oil spills and natural resources in the Gulf of Mexico. The earliest approved plans are very brief as they were developed quickly to capture immediate, potentially perishable data during an evolving event. The plans also reflect the different nature of resources, data requirements, and associated study methods and techniques. Because study methods used for preassessment activities may also be applied in future injury assessment studies, some of the plans provide for both near term and longer term data collection or studies. As data from the studies become available, the Trustees may adapt study approaches or methods, or consider conducting additional studies, as needed, to ensure that the impacts of the oil spill can be fully identified and measured. This iterative process is intended to obtain the highest quality scientific information available to determine how much harm to resources has occurred and how much restoration is required.
As permitted under the Oil Pollution Act's NRDA regulations, in some instances BP has been working cooperatively with the Trustees to collect preassessment data and to conduct NRDA activities. The Trustees have afforded BP the opportunity to provide input to the Trustees in the development of preassessment study plans and many of the plans have been signed off on by representatives of Trustees and BP. Cooperation facilitates the collection and sharing of reliable data, while allowing all parties to conduct their own analysis and interpretation of that data. Trustees for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill include agencies or officials of the following:
State of Louisiana
State of Mississippi
State of Alabama
State of Florida
State of Texas
U.S. Department of the Interior, through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Indian Affairs
U.S. Department of Commerce, through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration