NWF’s Andy McDaniels briefs Outdoor Writers Association of America on organization’s response to BP oil spill
The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is an unfolding tragedy that is having profound impacts on people and wildlife, the National Wildlife Federation said at the annual gathering of the nation’s outdoor writers.
“We clearly have an epic catastrophe unfolding,” said Andy McDaniels, Coastal Louisiana outreach coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation. “The greatest coastal wetland system in America is at the height of spring wildlife nesting season, including species such as the Louisiana mottled duck. Wildlife in the region now faces the largest oil spill in the nation’s history. It is hard to imagine a more dire situation.”
The National Wildlife Federation briefed attendees of the Outdoor Writers Association of America annual conference on the tremendous ecological and wildlife impacts of the BP oil spill along the Gulf Coast-an area labeled a “Sportsman’s Paradise” because of the world-class fishing and hunting opportunities that draw hunters and anglers from around the United States to the region.
Louisiana’s coast sustains one of the world’s largest fisheries, produces the largest catch of redfish, hosts up to 20 percent of the nation’s wintering waterfowl, and is home to more than 400 species of birds, fish and wildlife. It is bracing for the worst oil spill in America’s history.
NWF has a team on the ground in Venice, Louisiana, leading boat tours of the region and has served as a focal point for volunteer activism and media inquiries.
“This river of oil is still flowing out of the Gulf [and] these toxins will stay in the marsh mud for years,” said McDaniels, who briefed reporters on the spill. “We need your help to turn this around.”
Coastal Louisiana was already in trouble prior to the spill. Levees built for flood control have straight-jacketed the Mississippi River. Instead of spreading nutrient-rich sediment that builds and sustains the delta and surrounding wetlands, the sediment funnels into the Gulf of Mexico. Canals dredged for navigation and oil and gas extraction have carved up the once-vast coastal wetland system. The canals accelerate saltwater intrusion, destroying the protective cypress forests and replacing brackish and freshwater wetlands with degraded salt marshes. Coupled with sea-level rise caused by global warming, Louisiana is losing the equivalent of about two football fields of land every hour. Since the 1930s, more than 2,300 square miles of Louisiana’s vital marshlands have disappeared. McDaniels made clear that restoration of Coastal Louisiana would be a priority NWF would aggressively pursue.
For more information , visit www.vanishingparadise.org.
Vanishing Paradise is a project by the National Wildlife Federation to restore Louisiana’s waterfowl habitat by reconnecting the Mississippi River with the wetlands.