Louisiana legislators approve 2012 Coastal Master Plan

On May 22, the Louisiana legislature unanimously approved the updated, $50 billion, 50-year Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast, aimed at stopping coastal land loss in Louisiana, the last step in an approval process that began in January. Admittedly, funding for the plan remains uncertain, but several sources exist, including Clean Water Act penalties associated with the Deepwater Horizon disaster, offshore oil and natural gas drilling royalties and state and federal environmental programs.

Because the coastal marshes and prairies of Louisiana comprise the heart of the single most important habitat for migrating and wintering waterfowl in North America, and provide year-round habitat for the vast majority of the world's mottled duck population, DU staff reviewed the Coastal Master Plan and offered comments. Overall, DU was pleased with the plan, but concerned that waterfowl, sportsman and private landowner interests were not given sufficient consideration and involvement in the planning process.

"We applaud Louisiana for having the resolve to put forth a vision for the coast, and stand ready to assist and partner with the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) to achieve the ultimate goals and objectives of this master plan," said DU Director of Conservation Programs Jerry Holden. "However, there are specific issues with the plan that DU would like to see addressed, most notably consideration of migratory bird and private landowner focus groups as part of future framework development teams."

The chief message delivered in DU's comments was the need to recognize the importance and impact of waterfowl and other migratory birds on the region's economy and culture. Wildlife-related recreation contributed more than $2.02 billion to Louisiana's economy in 2006 (latest numbers available), and waterfowl hunting alone contributes more than $62 million in total output annually.

Additionally, the majority of coastal Louisiana is privately owned, and it will be essential to work with these landowners during plan implementation. Clearly, anyone owning part of the disappearing coast has a strong desire to see coastal wetlands sustained indefinitely, and DU feels that private landowners represent a crucial and untapped resource for plan development and subsequent implementation.

"We look forward to supporting the efforts of CPRA and all entities engaged in protection and restoration of coastal Louisiana's rich wetlands and the people, waterfowl, fish and wildlife, regional culture and industries that depend on them," said DU CEO Dale Hall.