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Hurricanes Impact Wildlife Habitat in Texas and Louisiana

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Ducks Unlimited Urges Congress to Support Habitat Restoration Efforts

Complete destruction of Texas' McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge headquarters after Hurricane Ike.

September 22, 2008 – Ducks Unlimited urges Congress to act quickly to help state and federal wildlife agencies, farmers and ranchers recover from the damage done by Hurricanes Gustav and Ike by funding restoration and recovery efforts that will enable them to continue with farming, ranching or other habitat programs that provide critically important wetland habitat on their lands. Waterfowl, other migratory birds and resident wildlife species depend heavily on habitat provided on public and private lands in the storm-impacted areas.

“The storms damaged many levees and water control structures and other infrastructure that will need to be repaired to provide quality habitat, and that is critical to ongoing partnerships and conservation efforts among public agencies and private landowners,” Todd Merendino, Manager of Conservation Programs in Texas for Ducks Unlimited, said.

Hurricanes Ike and Gustav caused scouring along levees like this one at Point-aux-Chenes Wildlife Managment Unit in Louisiana

Following 2005 hurricanes, DU supported efforts like Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) funding to assist local governments with recovery. EWP also assists farmers and ranchers with debris removal, repairing conservation measures and other restoration efforts. DU also supported funding for US Fish and Wildlife Service refuge cleanup and repairs.

“We believe similar emergency funding is needed for restoration efforts after Hurricanes Gustav and Ike,” Bob Dew, Manager of Conservation Programs in Louisiana for DU, said. “The storm surge from Ike was close to that of Rita’s in places like Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge, and several feet higher than Rita’s in some areas. Lacassine NWR is over 22 miles from the coastline. The impacts of Ike’s storm surge on farmers and ranchers could be similar to Hurricane Rita in Louisiana, and Rita caused a nearly 60 percent reduction in planted rice acres in Vermillion Parish.”

“Hurricane Ike had much greater impacts to Texas farmers and ranchers than did Hurricane Rita. The agricultural areas affected by Ike’s storm surge in Louisiana and Texas represent some of the most important habitat for wintering waterfowl in North America,” Merendino said.

Conserving coastal habitat is not only important for wildlife, but also vital to controlling flooding and decreasing storm surges. Coastal wetlands are self-maintaining “horizontal levees” that provide $23.2 billion worth of protection from hurricane-related flooding in the US each year, according to a recent study conducted by Robert Costanza, director of the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont.

Coastal marshes like this in Texas absorb storm surge and floodwaters.

But coastal wetlands are disappearing into the Gulf in both Texas and Louisiana. Over one million acres of coastal marshes along the Gulf Coast have ceased being surge-absorbing, protective barriers and have instead become open water, essentially “rolling out the red carpet” for salt water intrusion and storm surges.

“DU has worked with a variety of partners to restore hundreds of thousands of acres along the Texas and Louisiana coasts, but the rate of marsh disappearance is outpacing restoration efforts,” Dew said. “When you add hurricane damage to navigation canals, saltwater intrusion, erosion and subsidence, the causes of wetland loss far outweigh restoration efforts. It’s a vicious cycle. The more marsh you lose, the more marsh you’ll lose. Each acre that becomes open water exposes more acres to marsh-destroying factors.”

With more than a million supporters, Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest and most effective wetland and waterfowl conservation organization with more than 12 million acres conserved. The United States alone has lost more than half of its original wetlands - nature’s most productive ecosystem - and continues to lose more than 80,000 wetland acres each year.

Contact:
Andi Cooper
 601-206-5463
acooper@ducks.org

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Related:  louisianatexas

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