Sportsmen have been calling for coastal marshlands and wetlands to be restored since last year's oil spill, and to pay for the restoration efforts properly funded by ensuring penalties paid by BP under the Clean Water Act be directed back to the Gulf Coast region. However, these calls so far have gone unanswered.

To make certain sportsmen's voices are heard, Ducks Unlimited and the National Wildlife Federation hosted a sportsmen's fly-in on June 14-15 in Washington, D.C. as part of their Vanishing Paradise partnership. During those two days, the group visited more than 25 congressional offices to discuss with senators, representatives and their staffs the importance of restoring the Gulf's rapidly disappearing coastal wetlands and ensuring penalties paid by BP are used for Gulf habitat restoration.

"These meetings provide our nation's hunters and anglers an opportunity to urge members of Congress to unite and pass legislation that will help stop the staggering wetland loss occurring in the Gulf," explained Barton James, director of public policy at DU's Governmental Affairs Office.

Today, the Gulf's ability to support waterfowl has been severely compromised by natural and human-induced changes that have caused dramatic loss of wetlands and their associated functions and values. Every 38 minutes, Louisiana loses an area of coastal wetlands the size of a football field. Since the 1930s, more than 1,800 square miles of wetlands and marshes have been lost to coastal erosion-an area as large as the state of Delaware.

This region is a top conservation priority for Ducks Unlimited because as many as 10 million waterfowl winter along the Gulf Coast and often spend more of their annual life-cycle on these wintering grounds than they do on the breeding grounds in the north. Since the Gulf Coast provides continentally significant wintering habitat for waterfowl, hunters across the country consider it of vital importance.

"Congress must pass meaningful legislation now in order to guarantee that waterfowl habitat restoration efforts take place," James said. "We believe using CWA fines levied against the responsible parties to restore the Gulf's ecosystem is a rational and necessary solution. If these crucial areas are not conserved now, a part of our nation's rich waterfowling tradition could be lost forever."