Maybe not strike three, but certainly we are in the late innings of a game we cannot afford to lose. The scale and complexity of the problems in coastal Louisiana are daunting. But there is reason for cautious optimism that all may not be lost. In 1998 a plan entitled Coast 2050: Toward a Sustainable Coastal Louisiana was approved or endorsed by a host of state and federal agencies and local governments that have a stake in restoration of the marsh. However, even if the plan is successfully implemented, models used in the planning process project that by 2050 some 450,000 additional acres of marsh would be lost. If that happens, only about 1.5 million acres, or half the marsh present just a century ago, will remain—and that would be a victory, albeit not a wholly satisfying one.
According to the Louisiana Coastal Area Final Study Report , the price to save a sustainable Louisiana coastal marsh is at least $14 billion, but the cost of losing the marsh to the Gulf of Mexico is far greater. Coast 2050 projects a loss of $37 billion in "public use value" by 2050. The estimate takes into account loss of "ecological goods and services" provided by the marsh. Simply stated, it is an estimated value of what we all stand to lose in recreational hunting and fishing opportunities, commercial fisheries harvests, water-quality functions, hurricane protection, navigation and port facilities, oil production infrastructure, and many other functions and values the Louisiana coastal marsh provides to us all.
Regardless of where in North America you call home, if you have a passion for waterfowl, waterfowl hunting, and wild places, take time to learn more about the plight of the Louisiana marsh country and the plans to restore and sustain a meaningful portion of the marsh's astounding productivity. Learn more about what you can do to help. And then act, because while you were reading this, another piece of coastal marsh the size of a football field was lost. By this time tomorrow, 50 more acres will be gone.
Dr. Tom Moorman is director of conservation planning at Ducks Unlimited's Southern Regional Office in Jackson, Miss.