September 24, 2010
BP Oil Spill Draws Thousands of Concerned Sportsmen to Virtual Town Hall
Washington, DC '“ A virtual town hall hosted by National Wildlife Federation tonight drew thousands of hunters and anglers concerned about the tremendous ecological and wildlife impacts of the BP oil spill along the Gulf Coast. The area is a draw for hunters and anglers nationwide and often called a "Sportsman's Paradise."
The Gulf Coast sustains one of the world's largest fisheries and is home to more than 400 species of birds, fish and wildlife. It is bracing for what could be the worst oil spill in America's history.
NWF has a team on the ground in Venice, Louisiana leading boat tours of the region and has served as a focal point for volunteer activism and media inquiries. Leading the team is NWF President and CEO Larry Schweiger who spoke about what he's witnessed over the last several days.
"With a huge volume of oil flowing in the Gulf of Mexico unabated, we clearly have an epic catastrophe unfolding," Schweiger said. "The greatest coastal wetland system in America is at the height of spring wildlife nesting season. It now faces what may be the largest oil spill in the nation's history. It is hard to imagine a more dire situation." Bob Marshall, Times Picayune outdoor staff writer and conservation editor-at-large for Field and Stream spoke about his personal connection to the Gulf Coast and his alarm at what may be in store.
"This river of oil is still flowing out of the Gulf [and] these toxins will stay in the marsh mud for years," said Marshall. "We need your help to turn this around."
Coastal Louisiana was already in trouble prior to the spill. Canals dredged by the oil industry have carved up the once-vast coastal wetland system. The canals accelerate saltwater intrusion, destroying the protective cypress forests and replacing brackish and freshwater wetlands with degraded salt marshes. Withdrawing oil and natural gas has further deflated the region, causing millions of acres of marshes to subside. Coupled with sea-level rise caused by global warming, Louisiana is losing the equivalent of about two football fields of land every hour. Schweiger made clear that restoration of Coastal Louisiana and a freeze on new offshore drilling in the area would be priorities NWF would aggressively pursue.