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CONSERVATION CORNER
(For the week of July 5, 2010)
Mabus Chosen to Oversee Gulf Restoration
by James L. Cummins

President Barack Obama recently announced that Navy Secretary Ray Mabus will oversee long-term restoration for the Gulf Coast.

Mabus’s role is part of a broad effort to continue to clean-up, provide long-term restoration to the coast, understand what happened in the spill and hold British Petroleum (BP) accountable.

Calling the April 20 BP oil spill the worst environmental disaster in the nation’s history, Obama said he asked Mabus, the former governor of Mississippi and “a son of the Gulf Coast,” to develop a long-term plan to restore the area.

Such a plan, the president said, will “go beyond responding to the crisis of the moment,” and will be designed by states, local communities, tribes, fishermen, businesses, conservationists and other Gulf residents.

President Barack Obama’s selection of Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, as his go-to person in charge of developing a long-term Gulf Coast restoration plan, has won widespread praise.

According to U.S. Senator Thad Cochran, Mabus “understands the economy, culture and dynamics of the region, and he knows the officials in the Administration who can make the plan for restoration become a reality.”

Mabus got his start in state politics in the early 1980s as a member of then-Governor William Winter’s brainy and ambitious young staff, known as the “boys of spring.” As a senior aide to Winter, he helped craft the state’s landmark education reform. Later, as state auditor from 1984 to 1988, Mabus led investigations of local officials that uncovered more than a million dollars in misspent funds, resulting in jail time for scores of politicians.

In 1988, at age 39, Mabus took office as the nation’s youngest governor. He lost his bid for re-election in 1991. In July of 1994, President Bill Clinton, appointed Mabus ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

In June 2009, Mabus was appointed by President Obama as the 75th United States Secretary of the Navy.

I am confident that Secretary Mabus will do a great job with his added duties. Like a previous assistant secretary of the Navy, Theodore Roosevelt, Mabus has a strong concern for our environment and his record in Mississippi shows it.

Mabus’s first order of business will be to compose a comprehensive assessment of post-spill recovery needs, as well as a plan to provide integrated federal assistance for longer-term restoration and recovery and deliver it to the president as soon as possible.


James L. Cummins is executive director of Wildlife Mississippi, a non-profit, conservation organization founded to conserve, restore and enhance fish, wildlife and plant resources throughout Mississippi.