The Galveston Bay watershed is home to a significant portion of Texas’ total population. Nearly 5.4 million people live in the five counties that surround Galveston Bay (U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division, 2016), and millions more visit the region each year to take advantage of its fishing and ecotourism opportunities.
Protecting and promoting the health of Galveston Bay are important. But communicating why to residents and visitors is a challenge. Long-term success in environmental awareness and stewardship takes time and is not simple. It is the result of repeated interactions with the public and engagement on a topic, such as the Texas Department of Transportation’s “Don’t mess with Texas” campaign, which has used the same slogan for more than 30 years with great success.
Long-term success requires people to go one step beyond their usual actions to understand what stewardship means by being conscious of what protects and promotes the health of Galveston Bay. Consciousness can lead to action, such as deciding to pour fats, oils, and grease into a separate container and into the trash instead of pouring them down the drain, or tossing an empty soda can in the recycling bin instead of on the ground.
Priorities for engaging communities in conservation include:
- develop new and support existing stewardship programs and volunteer opportunities for stakeholders,
- support and promote workshops and events that facilitate stakeholder and partner involvement,
- continue to expand and support the Back the Bay campaign and other regional initiatives,
- ensure local governments are knowledgeable about key estuary issues, common interests, and new information as it becomes available,
- develop new and support existing programs in Galveston Bay to engage the public in a dialogue about key issues,
- develop new and support existing programs in Galveston Bay that change behaviors and attitudes in Galveston Bay with a focus on adult education, and
- develop new and support existing K-12 Galveston Bay estuary-related curricular materials for regional use.