Louisiana Coast: The Time Is Now

If North America is the land of plenty, blessed with abundant natural resources, then Louisiana's coastal marsh is a strong candidate for capital. Unfortunately, all who depend on Louisiana's coastal marshes for food, livelihood, shipping, recreation and storm and flood protection are in very real danger of losing it. (View "Vanishing Gulf Coast" video.)

As healthy, intact marsh begins
to degrade...
...into broken marsh, saltwater, wind and wave erosion... ...gain further access, thus accelerating the process of conversion to open water.

Why should you care about the loss of coastal Louisiana?

Do you like to have lights, heat and fuel for your car?

  • 18 percent of U.S. oil and 24 percent of U.S. natural gas comes from Louisiana

Do you ever enjoy a good shrimp scampi or crab salad?

  • 25-35 percent of the commercial seafood harvest in the United States comes from Louisiana

Do you like being able to go to the local store and buy what you need?

  • 500 million tons of waterborne cargo annually are funneled through Louisiana
  • Five of the largest ports in the United States are in Louisiana (Coastal Protection & Restoration)

Do you enjoy bird watching or waterfowl hunting?

  • Critical migration staging area for neotropical migrants
  • Home to vast rookeries of wading birds
  • Winter home to 9 million ducks, 500,000 geese and 90 percent of the world's population of mottled ducks

If you answered "Yes" to any of these questions, then coastal Louisiana matters to you.

The fierce urgency of now

We are losing one of the most productive wetland systems on earth, and one of the most important waterfowl wintering areas in North America – rapidly. Very rapidly. Louisiana currently undergoes about 90 percent of the total coastal wetland loss in the continental United States (Couvillion et al. 2011).

Louisiana loses:

  • Approximately 16.5 square miles of its fertile marsh every year (Couvillion et al. 2011)
  • 29 acres of coastal wetlands a day (Couvillion et al. 2011)
  • An area of marsh about the size of a football field every hour (Couvillion et al. 2011)
  • 1,833 square miles of land lost from 1932 to 2010, representing about 25 percent of the 1932 land area (Couvillion et al. 2011)

Importance to waterfowl

"It is hard to over-state the importance of the habitat provided by the Louisiana coastal marsh to North American waterfowl," said Director of Science and Policy, Dr. Tom Moorman. "Millions of waterfowl winter in Louisiana, including substantial proportions of continental populations of gadwalls, blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, northern pintails, lesser scaup, resident mottled ducks and over three-quarters of a million mallards."

The marshes provide critical wintering and migration habitat at the southern confluence of the Mississippi and Central flyways. Picture a continental funnel: the left half is the Central Flyway, and the right half is the Mississippi Flyway. Waterfowl from Ontario to Alberta, from Michigan to Montana, migrate down that funnel and pour into Louisiana's coastal marsh, where they find a smorgasbord on which to feed all winter.

It's no wonder the North American Waterfowl Management Plan's Gulf Coast Joint Venture recognizes the Louisiana coastal marsh as a top priority for the conservation of waterfowl. Likewise, Ducks Unlimited's International Conservation Plan identifies habitat along the Gulf Coast of Louisiana and Texas as one of only five Level I priority regions.

What is DU doing about it?

Ducks Unlimited is taking a three-pronged approach to addressing this monumental issue:

1) Habitat delivery – On-the-ground habitat protection, restoration and creation.

2) Public policy – DU's role in coastal policy is to advocate for large-scale restoration programs and funding, not just for our organization, but for partners and other entities with the capabilities to make a difference. We know this problem is bigger than DU; it's bigger than any one entity can overcome.

3) Science and Planning – DU believes in making certain that our habitat delivery and policy resources are put to the most efficient and effective use, and we ensure that by using science as our guide.

What can you do?

Regardless of where in North America you call home, if you have a passion for waterfowl and waterfowl hunting, and a passion for wild places, take time to learn more about the plight of the Louisiana marsh country and the plans to restore and sustain a meaningful amount of the marsh's abundant productivity. Learn what you can do to help below. And then act, because while you were reading this, another piece of the marsh the size of a football field was lost, and by this time tomorrow, 29 more acres will be gone.

"If you have supported our efforts, you have my deep appreciation.

If you have not yet joined us, or if you can do more, I urge you to do so.

We must act. Now is the time; This is the place."

–DU Director of Conservation Programs Jerry Holden

For more information on DU's work in coastal Louisiana, contact:
Bob Dew, manager of conservation programs, bdew@ducks.org.