Ducks Unlimited lauded a group of U.S. Senators from Gulf Coast states last week as they introduced legislation that supports ensuring penalties paid by BP under the Clean Water Act are directed back to the Gulf Coast region. The legislation, known as the RESTORE the Gulf Coast Act of 2011, would direct 80 percent of BP penalties paid under the Clean Water Act toward the long-term health of the Gulf region's coastal ecosystems and economies.
The original cosponsors of the RESTORE the Gulf Coast Act of 2011 are Sens. Mary Landrieu (LA) and Richard Shelby (AL). Cosponsoring the legislation are Sens. David Vitter (LA), Bill Nelson (FL), Marco Rubio (FL), Jeff Sessions (AL), Thad Cochran (MS), Roger Wicker (MS) and Kay Bailey-Hutchison (TX). Sen. Barbara Boxer (CA), Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, who was instrumental in securing the agreement among the senators, has pledged to consider this bill in her committee quickly.
Ducks Unlimited is encouraged by these senators' efforts and believes the introduction of this legislation is an important step toward the ultimate goal of restoring important waterfowl habitat
along the Gulf Coast.
"Ensuring penalties paid by BP under the Clean Water Act are directed back to the Gulf Coast region is essential to sustaining waterfowl populations," DU Director of Public Policy Barton James said. "In order to guarantee that waterfowl habitat restoration efforts take place, Congress must work together to pass meaningful legislation."
For decades, DU has been working to promote long-term wetlands restoration in the Gulf Coast region
. Since the spill, DU and several partners have formally requested that Congress support legislation that ensures penalties paid by BP under the Clean Water Act are directed back to the Gulf Coast region. One such partnership that is focused on restoring the Gulf region is Vanishing Paradise. This partnership has been forged by Ducks Unlimited and the National Wildlife Federation to advocate for the restoration of the processes that created Louisiana's coastal wetlands by nationalizing the issue and educating members of Congress.
Coastal Louisiana is one of the most significant areas for waterfowl in North America. It provides migration
and wintering habitat for more than 10 million ducks and geese.
However, the Gulf Coast is experiencing staggering wetlands loss. In Louisiana alone, an area of wetlands the size of a football field is lost every 38 minutes. Both DU and NWF understand that restoring coastal wetlands and marshes is essential to stopping the long-term wetlands loss facing the region.
"The Gulf region has suffered from years of degradation, and the oil spill added insult to injury," Land Tawney, NWF's Senior Manager for Sportsmen Leadership, said. "We look forward to working with the Gulf delegation, other members of Congress and the Administration on passage of a bill that makes this critical ecosystem whole again. The Mississippi River Delta is a national treasure, important to hunters and anglers from all corners of our country. We applaud the efforts led by Senators Landrieu and Shelby to restore this 'Sportsman's Paradise.'"
Ducks Unlimited's James also explained that restoring these wetlands provides positive economic impacts. "The Gulf's rich waterfowling tradition
also serves as a significant stream of revenue for our nation," James said. "On average, hunting
and fishing is an $80 billion per year industry. Restoring coastal wetlands provides positive benefits to America's great outdoors and economy."