TEXAS GULF ECOLOGICAL MANAGEMENT SITES
What is a Gulf Ecological Management Site?
A Gulf Ecological Management Site (GEMS) is a geographic area that has special
ecological significance to the continued production of fish, wildlife and other
natural resources or that represents unique habitats.
What is the GEMS Program?
The GEMS Program is an initiative of the Gulf of Mexico Program (GMP) and the five Gulf of Mexico states that provide a regional framework for ecologically important Gulf habitats. The GEMS Program will coordinate and utilize existing federal, state, local and private programs, resources, and mechanisms to identify GEMS in each state, build an informational database, and foster cooperative use of GEMS to further GMP goals.
The GMP has identified the GEMS Program as one of its priority action items to achieve its goal to conserve, restore, enhance and create Gulf of Mexico habitats. The first step of the program is for each Gulf state to identify special ecological sites it regards as GEMS. Information about each site, such as size, boundaries, ecological characteristics and current management status, will be included in a Gulf-wide database. This information network will be used by participants in the GEMS Program to coordinate and to share information about ecologically important sites and appropriate management techniques on a regional basis.
The regional strategy of the GEMS Program will:
- promote information exchange;
- increase awareness of the national significance of Gulf of Mexico sites;
- muster additional support for management activities; and
- assist in setting priorities on a geographical basis for funding and activities, such as research, monitoring for ecological health, special action projects, and other mechanisms to ensure the continuing vitality of these critical areas.
What is the status of the GEMS Program?
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department received a grant from the GMP to assist each Gulf of Mexico state in identifying special ecological areas and gathering information about the sites to include in the regional GEMS information system. Workshops have been held in Texas, Mississippi and Alabama resulting in draft specifications for the database and preliminary lists of sites. Florida has preliminary lists of sites and will assist in refining the database. It was anticipated that state-specific sites and a framework for the information system will be completed by late 1995. A workshop of the GEMS coordinators and other participants was held early in 1996 to evaluate the GEMS Program and develop a process to identify sites that have ecological importance to the Gulf of Mexico as a whole.
Future activities of the GEMS Program will include building the information
system with data about specific sites; identifying management needs for each
site, such as research, monitoring or action projects that address specific
issues; and obtaining the support necessary to meet these needs. The GMP may
also utilize information available through the GEMS Program to further its
efforts to geographically-target priorities for funding and activities.