A year after the massive BP oil spill, more than three dozen scientists surveyed by the Associated Press say the Gulf of Mexico is "nearly back to normal." The experts gave the Gulf's overall health an average grade of 68 on a 1-to-100 scale, up from 65 in October and nearly back up to the 71 mark the same researchers had given the ecosystem last summer, as an estimate of pre-disaster levels. Has the damage from the worst oil spill in U.S. history really disappeared so quickly?

Real recovery is still far away: The progress made in the year since the spill has been remarkable, says the New Orleans Times-Picayune in an editorial, but there is "a long way to go before the Gulf environment and economy is fully recovered from the spill." So it's important not to let overly rosy assessments of the recovery reduce the pressure to make BP pay the $5 billion to $19 billion in fines that it still rightly faces.
"A year after the BP oil spill, what the Gulf Coast wants you to know"

The worst fears never came true: There's no question that the BP spill had "lasting effects," says Bryan Walsh at TIME. Nearly 5 million barrels of oil wreaked havoc on the water — and add to that the "unknown effect" of 1.8 million gallons of chemical dispersants. Cleanup workers had to trample "sensitive wetlands" that were choked with tar. "But the ecological doomsday many predicted clearly hasn't taken place. There is recovery where once there was only fear."
"The BP oil spill, one year later: How healthy is the Gulf now?"

It's still too early to assess all the damage: Yes, "catastrophe was averted," says Geoffrey Lean in The Telegraph, but "the task of assessing the true toll is only now starting." Tourists are returning, wetlands are sprouting back to life, and beaches "look like they're back to their breathtaking normal." But remember: After herring populations appeared fine following the Exxon Valdez spill, they later crashed, "never to recover." Nobody really knows how bad the damage is a mile beneath the Gulf's surface, so "the story of Deepwater Horizon is still far from coming to a close."
"The Gulf of Mexico is not as clean as they say"