Top stories for June 15, 2010
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DU Names Gulf Coast Response Team
To better coordinate Ducks Unlimited's response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and its impact on wetlands, waterfowl and other wildlife, CEO Dale Hall named a team of 16 DU professional staff to provide the organization with day-to-day guidance on all matters related to DU's work in connection with the Gulf Coast.
"DU's Gulf Coast Response Team has been formed to ensure that our organization’s response to this environmental catastrophe is fully coordinated in the areas of wetlands and waterfowl science, wetlands restoration and public policy,” Hall said. “In fact, several members of this team have already spent time with me in Louisiana gaining firsthand knowledge of the spill and its threats to waterfowl habitat.
“Most of the team members have been involved since this spill began April 20, and they are devoting significant time and resources to monitor, plan and execute actions by DU and our partners every day,” he said. “I am confident that this team approach will allow us to firm up our coordination and communications while providing the maximum possible response from DU.”
Hall said the team has several major goals, including monitoring the spill and reporting on activities, responses and impacts to wetlands and waterfowl. In addition to coordinating DU’s work with partners, corporations, agencies and the media, the team will take immediate action where appropriate to communicate information, engage in science and policy work, and develop efforts to restore wetlands. The team will work with partners to conduct short- and long-term monitoring of waterfowl and habitat impacts, and it will accelerate and complete planning for restoration of Gulf Coast wetlands. The team will also initiate policy efforts necessary to secure long-term protection, enhancement and expansion of coastal marshes.
The team is led by Dr. Tom Moorman, director of conservation planning in DU’s Southern Region. “Dr. Moorman has 25 years of experience in Gulf Coast wetlands restoration and management, including research on wintering waterfowl,” said Dr. Alan Wentz, DU’s senior group manager for conservation and marketing and one of three senior staff advisors to the team.
Other DU senior staff advisors for the team include Dr. Curtis Hopkins, director of southern operations in Jackson, Miss., and Ken Babcock, senior conservation director in Memphis.
The Gulf Coast is one of DU’s five highest-priority areas for waterfowl and habitat conservation in all of North America. The area winters millions of waterfowl and other migratory birds each season.
DU supporter shares experience with congressional committee on impact of oil spill to sportsmen
Capt. Ryan Lambert testifies before congressional committee on impact of oil spill to sportsmen.
The voice of America’s sportsmen and women is being heard by Congress in regards to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill’s impact on the Gulf Coast. On Thursday, the House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife, led by Delegate Madeleine Z. Bordallo of Guam, held an oversight hearing titled, “Our Natural Resources at Risk: The Short and Long Term Impacts of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.”
The House committee invited Capt. Ryan Lambert, a Ducks Unlimited member and member of the Louisiana Charter Boat Association, to testify at the oversight hearing. Lambert is from southeast Louisiana and makes his living guiding sportsmen in the bays and marshes of the Gulf Coast.
More than 15 members of Congress attended the hearing, including Wisconsin Rep. Ron Kind, who expressed his concern over the spill given the waterfowl-driven district he represents, a district that borders the northern end of the Mississippi River. He also asked if administration officials were working with organizations like DU in coordinating its response to the spill.
Lambert encouraged the administration to take the necessary steps to restoring and protecting Louisiana’s wetlands, steps that he feels should have been taken a long time ago. “As the years have passed, our way of life has been increasingly threatened due to the erosion of our wetlands,” said Lambert. “Now, with millions of gallons of oil entering this fragile ecosystem from the oil spill of the Deepwater Horizon, never before has our national treasure been in more jeopardy than it is now. It is apparent that it is time for us to turn to you for the help we need to save our precious wetlands and our way of life.”
DU holds Gulf Coast oil spill briefing for Capitol Hill staff, Members of Congress
Capt. Ryan Lambert (left) and Dr. Tom Moorman, director of conservation planning for DU's Southern Region, at "The Future of a Sportsman's Paradise" presentation on Capitol Hill.
This past Friday, more than 150 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate staffs, representatives from CNN, NBC, Fox News, and Roll Call and other organizations attended a Ducks Unlimited briefing about the Gulf Coast Oil Spill and its possible effects on waterfowl.
Dr. Tom Moorman, DU’s lead scientist for the Gulf Coast, and Capt. Ryan Lambert, a south Louisiana fishing and hunting guide, gave a presentation titled, “The Future of a Sportman’s Paradise - Post Gulf Coast Oil Spill.”
During the briefing, Dr. Moorman revealed the impacts that the oil could have on the ducks that migrate to the Louisiana coastal region during the winter, a number that can reach up to 13.7 million in some years. “What’s at risk for ducks is what’s at risk for the birds you are seeing on the news right now,” said Moorman. “The other possibility is that oil comes into the marshes and the wetlands and kills the food sources. In that case, birds are going to show up, not find food and then scatter in search of other habitats.”
America’s Great Outdoors listening sessions in Montana nab federal officials’ attention
Recently, citizens in four Montana cities (Helena, Ovando, Bozeman and Missoula) had the opportunity to voice their opinions before dozens of federal officials concerning the president’s America Great Outdoors (AGO) initiative, which promotes and supports innovative community-level efforts to conserve outdoor spaces and to reconnect Americans to the outdoors.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, John Jarvis, director of the National Park Service, and Nancy Sutley, chairman of the White House Council for Environmental Quality, were among top federal officials in attendance at the sessions, which occurred in early June.
At the listening sessions, citizens, park commission officials, conservationists and others shared their ideas on how the government can best follow through with this initiative that aims to protect public lands more effectively and get more people, particularly children, into the outdoors. Robert Bonnie, a senior adviser to Secretary Vilsack, commented on the value of these sessions and why Montana was the first stop on the administration’s agenda. “I’ve been in conservation for 20 years and learned a lot,” said Bonnie. “We’ll announce more listening sessions in other parts of the country, but felt strongly that the place to kick these off is in Montana, because of the depth of experience in these issues.”
Bob Sanders, DU’s manager for conservation programs in Montana, said the sessions provided conservationists with a forum to have their voice heard. “The AGO Listening Sessions in Montana have been a great way to communicate the need for grassland and wetland conservation in Montana and throughout the Great Plains,” said Sanders. “Many people that aren’t involved with the conservation of the prairies don’t realize the value of these systems and how rapidly they are disappearing. The AGO sessions provided us with an opportunity to voice our concerns to decision makers in Washington and hopefully garner more support for conservation efforts such as U.S. Fish and Wildlife Grassland Easements, the Conservation Reserve Program and the Wetland Reserve Program.”
Sanders continued by commending those DU members and volunteers in Montana who attended the sessions and spoke up to voice their concerns and ideas to federal officials. “It was great to see DU members seize the chance to personally take a stand for conservation in front of policy makers. The voice of DU is being heard and our volunteers are a critical part of this process.”
In the wake of the success of the Montana listening sessions, the next session is being scheduled for Annapolis, Md., on June 25th.
Proposed diversion project could benefit endangered Louisiana marshes
Ducks Unlimited conservation staff from Louisiana recently met with local landowners and representatives from the Louisiana Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration, the United States Geological Survey and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to discuss the proposed White Ditch Diversion project in Plaquemines Parish.
The White Ditch Diversion project in Plaquemines Parish. Photo courtesy of www.lca.gov.
Located downstream of the existing Caernarvon Diversion operation, the proposed 35,000 cfs (cubic feet per second) sediment diversion provides for a medium diversion stretching from the east bank of the Mississippi River into the central River aux Chenes area. The objective is designed to provide additional freshwater, nutrients and sediment to the area between the Mississippi River and the River aux Chenes ridges. This area is currently isolated from the beneficial effects of the Caernarvon operation. The official public comment period for the project began May 21, 2010.
“The White Ditch Diversion project is designed to maximize the sediment inputs into the marsh, which is essential to long-term sustainability,” Bob Dew, DU’s manager for conservation programs in Louisiana, said. “The study looked at a variety of locations and diversion sizes, and this is the most efficient and cost-effective alternative.”
Levees along the Mississippi River have eliminated the periodic floods that historically provided marsh-sustaining freshwater, sediments and nutrients to this area. A combination of natural and human-induced factors has contributed to the loss of approximately 275 acres per year in the proposed project area, jeopardizing the livelihoods and traditions of local stakeholder groups. The proposed diversion is designed to maintain the current area of marsh habitat (approximately 41,000 acres) and to restore natural freshwater, nutrient and sediment inputs that would sustain and build marsh.
DU biologist serves on panel at Delaware congressman’s conservation press event
On June 7, Delaware congressman Mike Castle held a roundtable discussion to announce the introduction of the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act of 2010. DU biologist Kurt Anderson represented Ducks Unlimited on the discussion panel.
DU Biologist Kurt Anderson represented Ducks Unlimited at Delaware Rep. Mike Castle's June 7 conservation roundtable.
The bill would coordinate on-the-ground conservation efforts in the Delaware watershed through a Delaware River Basin Restoration Program within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and would institute a competitive grants program. Although the bill is not likely to pass through the House of Representatives this year, there is hope it will succeed in 2011.
“Under this legislation, we will be creating a needed federal umbrella charged with carrying out a coordinated strategy for protection and restoration efforts in the Delaware watershed, one of the nation’s most important water bodies and natural landscapes,” said Rep. Castle. “I am grateful to be working with so many great partners in Delaware on this bill, and remain committed to working with stakeholders on the conservation of this national treasure of great cultural, environmental, and ecological importance.”
Anderson commented on the value of the session. “The Delaware Bay Watershed is a critical area for migrating and wintering waterfowl and other wetland-dependent wildlife,” said Anderson. “Ducks Unlimited applauds efforts to increase the coordination of conservation activities in the Delaware Bay Watershed.”
Other noteworthy panel members included: Colin O’Mara (Secretary, Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control), Jamie Geiger (Asst. Regional Director, FWS), Mike Slattery (National Fish and Wildlife Foundation), and officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and The Nature Conservancy. All were asked to detail their activities and priorities in the Delaware River Basin, and how passage of the proposed legislation would affect their respective programs.
Illinois General Assembly passes bill to establish DU state license plate
Drivers in Illinois may soon see a new type of license plate out on the roads: a DU specialty license plate.
Recently, a bill to establish a DU specialty license plate passed the Illinois General Assembly and awaits signature by Gov. Pat Quinn. The bi-partisan legislation is co-sponsored by state Sen. John Sullivan and state Rep. Robert Pritchard.
Once signed into law, the specialty license plate bearing the DU logo will be available to Illinois residents for display on passenger vehicles, pickups and vans. DU will receive $25 for each license plate issued and for every year that the license is renewed.
Eric Schenk, DU’s regional biologist for Illinois, said the new license plate could bring significant benefits for DU’s conservation projects in the state. “With more than 30,000 members statewide, there is great potential for the license plate to generate significant revenue for DU’s wetland conservation work in Illinois,” said Schenk.
Passage of the license plate legislation was a two-year process for DU in Illinois. DU staff worked closely with DU volunteer leaders to secure legislative support. Plans are to promote the license plate at local DU events across Illinois once it becomes available.