WASHINGTON, March 6, 2006 - House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo (Calif.) says coastal wetlands restoration is "absolutely critical" for the stability of the Gulf Coast region and for its wildlife. In a letter sent to House Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis (Calif.), Pombo asked that money President Bush requested last month for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also be available for coastal wetlands restoration.
President Bush requested $132.4 million for immediate clean up and facility repairs at 61 national wildlife refuges in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma.
"Congressman Pombo understands the critical and beneficial relationship wetlands play for both people and wildlife," said Ducks Unlimited Executive Vice President Don Young. "Wetlands are one of the most valuable natural assets we have, and wetland losses along Gulf Coast states, especially Louisiana, is a serious problem. The damage from last year’s hurricanes really made people sit up and take notice."
Each year, more than 25 square miles of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands are lost, partly because Mississippi River sediments that once spread out and helped create wetlands in the coastal delta are now funneled into and lost in the Gulf of Mexico. These wetlands are critical to the Gulf’s seafood and sportfishing industries. The wetlands also act as filters in cleaning water and help minimize flood damage by holding and releasing floodwaters slowly. Unfortunately, the coastal wetland loss was accelerated by last summer’s terrible hurricanes. It is this underlying problem that must be addressed.
Realizing that actions are needed, DU has pledged $15 million to help restore some 54,000 acres of coastal wetlands along Louisiana, a key wintering area for ducks and geese.
The Committee on Resources has scheduled Young to testify later this month regarding the specific impact of hurricanes Katrina and Rita on the national wildlife refuge system in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. Pombo’s letter also urges the House Appropriations Committee to address the needs of threatened and endangered species affected by the hurricanes.
With more than a million supporters, Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest and most effective wetland and waterfowl conservation organization. The United States alone has lost more than half of its original wetlands - nature’s most productive ecosystem - and continues to lose more than 100,000 wetland acres each year.