DU presents Louisiana Gulf Coast science-based solutions on Earth Day

DU members are encouraged to recognize habitat conservation solutions on Earth Day

As the world's leader in wetlands conservation, Ducks Unlimited is working every day to improve habitat conditions to benefit waterfowl, other wildlife and people in North America. Earth Day is no different. But today, DU wants to remind its members and supporters that there are effective, science-based conservation solutions available. DU is pursuing these solutions in several priority areas, such as the Prairie Pothole Region, with the Rescue the Duck Factory program. One of these priority areas, the focus of DU's special Earth Day feature, affects the everyday lives of more Americans and wintering waterfowl than any other: the Louisiana Gulf Coast.

Manchac Wildlife Area, Louisiana
Millions of Americans will be affected if Louisiana's coastal marshes continue to disappear. Pictured is Manchac Wildlife Management Area.

Wetland loss and importance

Coastal wetland loss is occurring at alarming rates and threatening the coastal region of Louisiana, an area that provides a variety of services that strongly impact the nation's economy. For instance, Louisiana coastal marshes provide between 30 and 40 percent of the commercial seafood harvest in the United States; support the infrastructure that produces 18 percent of the country's oil and 24 percent of its natural gas and are home to five of the nation's largest ports that handle 500 million tons of waterborne cargo each year.

The region is also the most important wintering area for migratory waterfowl in North America, providing habitat for up to 9 million ducks and 1 million geese, not to mention millions of other wading birds, shorebirds and other wetland-dependent wildlife. These wetlands and the benefits they provide people and wildlife are highly threatened by coastal wetland loss, which is occurring at a rate of nearly 20,000 acres per year. The ongoing loss and threats have DU officials working hard to bring national attention to the area.

Science-based Solutions

DU is using a three-pronged approach to address coastal wetland loss in Louisiana:

1) DU engineers and biologists are providing on-the-ground habitat restoration and enhancement that seeks to offset coastal wetland losses.

One of DU's many on-the-ground projects in Louisiana is the Calcasieu-Sabine Watershed Project, which aims to improve water quality and vegetation along the coast. DU received $1.78 million from the state for the project and, with the help of its partners, will provide $195,000 in cash and in-kind services and will leverage all non-federal funds to secure at least $1 million in North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) funds. Every federal dollar provided by NAWCA must be matched by at least one dollar from non-federal sources.

2) DU advocates for large-scale restoration programs and funding for coastal Louisiana, not only for DU, but also for partners and other organizations working to conserve coastal wetlands.

NAWCA plays a major role in the direct delivery of many Louisiana projects. NAWCA has contributed to 48 of DU's projects in Louisiana that are either completed or underway. These projects have conserved a total of 520,679 acres of wildlife habitat in Louisiana. NAWCA contributions of over $34.7 million stimulated partner contributions of over $92.4 million.

3) DU uses science to inform conservation planning and restoration programs, as well as to inform its advocacy efforts regarding public policy initiatives.

DU works closely with the Gulf Coast Joint Venture (GCJV) to achieve this objective. The GCJV is a partnership among federal and state agencies, nonprofit organizations and private landowners dedicated to the conservation of priority bird habitat along the Gulf Coast. Habitat projects are developed and implemented by teams of biologists and managers of public and private lands. GCJV partners include numerous other organizations and hundreds of individuals that are involved in specific collaborative habitat, planning or evaluation projects.

Louisiana's coastal marshes are extremely diverse ecosystems, home to hundreds of wildlife species and plants.

With this plan in mind, DU officials are intent on bringing much-needed attention to an issue that could have significant large-scale effects.

"It is hard to overstate the important role coastal Louisiana plays in our nation's economy, not to mention its continental importance as a wintering area for waterfowl," said Tom Moorman, director of conservation planning at DU's Southern Regional Office. "Our efforts in the Gulf Coast region provide a prime example of the type of work DU does. Our work in coastal Louisiana directly benefits waterfowl immensely, but it also provides benefits for people. Confronting the loss of wetlands here is among our highest priorities within DU right now."