DU has for many years, along with many of our conservation partners, sought to raise awareness that there is an alarming ecological crisis in coastal Louisiana. Where once there were over 3 million acres of dynamic, productive coastal wetlands so important to people, waterfowl, other wetland wildlife, and hugely important recreational and commercial fisheries, now less than 2 million acres remain – and some 20,000 acres of what remains is lost annually. As humans, we seem to have difficulty responding to threats that do not feel imminent – 20,000 acres of marsh lost annually in a system that still has about 2 million acres may not feel like an imminent threat. However, put into a different time scale – an hourly time scale – an area of Louisiana coastal marsh the size of a football field is lost every half-hour. Some ecologists have suggested the system is on the brink of collapse – conclusions drawn from science a few years ago – well before this catastrophic oil spill. The threats were imminent prior to the oil spill – and now there is yet another blow that only serves to increase the imminence.
DU has been working to restore coastal Louisiana for more than 20 years. I have been fortunate to work for DU on this issue for nearly 19 years. We know from science we need to restore at least 250,000 acres of coastal freshwater marsh ponds just to meet the needs of wintering waterfowl. That was prior to any impacts the oil spill may have, and a need that will remain, and possibly be significantly increased, after the oil spill is stopped and cleaned up. DU has contacted the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and other state and federal partners to offer any assistance that we can in the near-term. We continue to recognize, however, that our commitment to restoration of coastal Louisiana must be long-term with an eye toward sustaining the ecological processes that created these continentally significant wetlands.
We continue to receive many calls asking how people can help in light of the disastrous oil spill. We have posted phone numbers and links on our website for people to call for additional information or to report spill-related damage. Professionals in the industries and government agencies are the first responders – those whose job is to stop the flow of oil, and then clean up what has spilled, and to rehabilitate any wildlife exposed to oil. While those immediate, high-priority tasks are completed, whether it is in the weeks or months ahead – DU remains committed to growing our programs – habitat restoration, public policy and advocacy, and science to inform both – with an eye toward restoring the Louisiana coast to a highly productive, resilient and sustainable system so it can get into the blood of future generations.
We must act on the best science we have, learn as we go where necessary and adjust our conservation efforts as needed along the way. We must do so with a real sense of urgency. We owe it to future generations to ensure coastal Louisiana is there for them to enjoy its rich bounty of fish and wildlife, for them to sit in a blind at dawn and see the eons-old traditional morning flights of teal, shorebirds and wading birds – so it can get in their blood, connect them to the land and foster them to become the next generation of scientists and conservationists.
Tom Moorman, Ph.D.
Director of Conservation Planning
Ducks Unlimited Inc.
DU members with questions about the Gulf Coast oil spill should contact Andi Cooper, DU regional communications biologist at email@example.com