A virtual town hall hosted by National Wildlife Federation tonight drew thousands of hunters and anglers concerned about the tremendous ecological and wildlife impacts of the BP oil spill along the Gulf Coast. The area is a draw for hunters and anglers nationwide and often called a “Sportsman’s Paradise.”
Louisiana’s coast sustains one of the world’s largest fisheries, produces the largest catch of redfish, hosts up to 20% of the nation’s wintering waterfowl, and is home to more than 400 species of birds, fish and wildlife. It is bracing for what could be 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. Leading the team is NWF President and CEO Larry Schweiger who spoke about what he’s witnessed over the last several days.
“With a huge volume of oil flowing in the Gulf of Mexico unabated, we clearly have an epic catastrophe unfolding,” Schweiger said. “The greatest coastal wetland system in America is at the height of spring wildlife nesting season, including the Louisiana mottled duck, now faces what may be the largest oil spill in the nation’s history. It is hard to imagine a more dire situation.”
Bob Marshall, Times Picayune outdoor staff writer and conservation editor-at-large for Field and Stream spoke about his personal connection to the Gulf Coast and his alarm at what may be in store.
“This river of oil is still flowing out of the Gulf [and] these toxins will stay in the marsh mud for years,” said Marshall. “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. Schweiger made clear that restoration of Coastal Louisiana and a clean energy future would be priorities NWF would aggressively pursue.
For audio of the town hall, visit http://www.vanishingparadise.o... and interviews contact NWF.
The National Wildlife Federation is America’s largest conservation organization inspiring Americans to protect wildlife for our children’s future.
Immediate Release: May 5, 201