Today, GRN and partner organizations held press events in New Orleans, LA and Biloxi, MS to release Gulf Future Guidance for Sustainable Restoration. This document was drafted by fifty-nine organizations, including GRN, from across the Gulf at the 2013 Gulf Gathering in March. Through two days of discussion we outlined our vision and priorities for how the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, created by the RESTORE Act, should select projects to fund with the BP Deepwater Horizon fines and penalties. By prioritizing ecosystem restoration and the economic benefits it will have for local communities, and by creating safe, healthy and just communities, the Council can build a better, more sustainable Gulf Coast. Chef Susan Spicer speaks at the event in New Orleans Speakers at the New Orleans press event included National Wildlife Federation’s David Muth, who represented the Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign, a coalition of local and national conservation organizations; Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser; well-known New Orleans chef and restaurateur Susan Spicer; Patty Whitney, local community advocate with Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing (BISCO); Jordan Macha, Gulf States representative for Sierra Club and Cynthia Sarthou, Gulf Restoration Network’s executive director. Raleigh Hoke speaks at the event in Mississippi In Mississippi, Pastor Eddie Hartwell from St. James Baptist Church in Gulfport opened the event with a prayer to remember the 11 men who lost their lives, and acknowledge the many other residents of the Gulf that have been impacted by the BP disaster. The other speakers included Thao Vu of MS Coalition for Vietnamese-American Fisher Folks and Families, Terese Collins, Director of Gulf Islands Conservancy, Raleigh Hoke with the Gulf Restoration Network, and Roberta Avila from the Steps Coalition.All of these diverse voices came together to call for holding BP accountable to the maximum extent of the law and to begin environmental restoration of the Gulf immediately.The RESTORE Act offers the Gulf a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to restore decades of ecosystem damages and to repair and sustain the communities and economy that rely on that ecosystem. The big question now is how much money will it be? How much will BP and the other responsible parties finally be made to pay for the worst environmental disaster in US history?The trial is ongoing and the companies who owned, operated and managed the Deepwater Horizon rig continue to point fingers toward one another for blame. This confusing story that’s playing out in the testimony makes one thing clear – safety concerns on that rig were ignored, 11 people lost their lives, and a unique and fragile ecosystem and cultural center of the country are paying the price every day. It’s been three years, and there’s no end in sight.New OrleansThis week as we memorialize the three year mark of this disaster, we also must look toward our future. What could the Gulf Coast look like in ten years? In twenty? The Gulf Future Guidance for Sustainable Restoration offers us a glimpse of what is possible. We urge the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council to adopt this vision as they move forward in drafting their plan for restoration. To realize the goals and the intentions of the RESTORE Act, the Council should create an open and inclusive process that gives communities a meaningful role in creating and implementing a plan for how to restore the Gulf.