The Gulf Coast is a term commonly used to describe the coastal regions of the Gulf of Mexico. Stretching for thousands of miles, it is home to several major cities and some of North America's most valuable estuarine wetlands. Portions of it rank among the most beautiful, pristine coastlines on Earth.

Many Americans think of the Gulf Coast exclusively in terms of the beaches in states bordering the Gulf, from the Everglades of Florida to the southern tip of Texas. However, the name also applies to the eastern coast of Mexico down to the Gulf of Campeche, the northern shore of the Yucatán Peninsula, and the northwest coast of Cuba.

The Gulf Coast's numerous beaches, bays, inlets, sloughs, swamps and marshes provide many important functions for human activities, and support a large portion of the economy of its residents. Sadly, the delicate balance of plant and marine life present along the coast is increasingly threatened by escalating human encroachment. Furthermore, the barrier islands that protect much of these habitats are disappearing due to erosion from rising sea levels and the longshore redistribution of sediments. The environmental impact is worsened by the fact that the Gulf of Mexico is one of the best known offshore oil production areas in the world.

Fortunately, there are many organizations and agencies working diligently to protect the Gulf Coast's natural resources. From citizen activists working to save the Florida Manatee and sea grasses, to individual state environmental efforts, to national and international enforcement of environmental policy, protection of the precious ecosystem of the Gulf Coast is an ongoing battle.

For the sake of our future generations, I hope nature wins.

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