2013 Gulf Gathering AttendeesLast week, conservation, faith-based, civil rights and community organizations from across the Gulf Coast came together for the 4th Annual Gulf Gathering. This meeting provided a critical opportunity for GRN and other groups working with the Gulf Future Coalition to sit down and discuss our vision for how we would like to see our ecosystem, economy and communities recover from the BP disaster. As the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council is developing its comprehensive plan for restoring the Gulf, this was the perfect time to pull folks together to develop clear recommendations and establish a path forward for ensuring we have a say in what that plan will ultimately look like.When outlining the priorities for how the Council should spend the fines and penalties from BP and the other offenders, we realized that a few things are clear. We all agree that ecosystem restoration should be the number one priority. We all also agree that economic development and infrastructure projects that receive funding from the Council, should have ecosystem benefits (like wastewater treatment) and most certainly not cause any additional environmental harm. And we want to make sure that the people who are doing the work of restoring our coast are local people who have been disproportionately impacted by this and other disasters.Finding agreement on this vision for a restored Gulf is only part of the process. Now we need to do the work to engage communities across the Gulf in restoration and ensure that their voices are lifted up and their ideas are incorporated into Council’s work. The people of the Gulf have an untapped breadth of knowledge about the natural resources and the best way for them to be restored as well as an understanding of why restoration is so critical to their lives and livelihood.In the coming weeks we will be releasing a set of principles for the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council that we hope will guide them as they develop their plan for restoring this national treasure.Click here to see more pictures from the Gulf GatheringThe Gulf Gathering was sponsored by:Gulf Restoration Network, Gulf Coast Fund, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Oxfam America, Sassafrass, Save Our Gulf, and Sierra ClubMichelle Erenberg is the coordinator of the Gulf Future Coalition. To learn more about Gulf Future visit www.gulffuture.org.