Louisiana Wildlife Federation advocates ecosystem recovery, recreational access projects to mitigate oil spill damage

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

BATON ROUGE – The Louisiana Wildlife Federation (LWF) is proposing habitat restoration work and public access projects to mitigate for lost recreational opportunities and damages to fish and wildlife resources caused by the BP Macondo oil well spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The initial list of projects has been presented to state officials who are working through the Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA) to assure all damages from the spill are accurately assessed, full reparation is made to restore the ecosystem to pre-spill conditions, and the public is made whole for the loss of its natural resources and the opportunity to enjoy them.

LWF’s habitat recommendations include:

Restoration of Gulf-side barrier beachfronts including dunes, vegetation and natural tidal inlets affected directly by oil and the spill response efforts.   

Restoration and stabilization of small, isolated islands in the Breton Sound, Barataria, Timbalier and Terrebonne Basins that serve as critical nesting and roosting habitat for birds as well as comprise an important habitat component for marine life like dolphins, sea turtles, redfish, speckled trout, blue crabs, shrimp and oysters.

“Restoring our barrier island and headland habitats is vitally important to the health of a variety of wildlife and fish species,” LWF Executive Director Randy Lanctot said. “Our recommendation also includes smaller islands, many of which were heavily impacted by the oil. 

Because they are isolated from predators, these little islands are attractive to colonial nesters like brown pelicans, herons, egrets and other wading birds.  It is critical for these habitats to be included on the list of restoration projects addressed through the NRDA process.”

Projects recommended by LWF to mitigate for lost recreational opportunities include:

• Restoration and management of public use at Elmer’s Island, including support for habitat inventory, restoration and enhancement, and supervision by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to assure safe and respectful use.  Similarly, LWF recommends that the habitat and public use of Fourchon Beach be restored under the direction of the South Lafourche Beachfront Development District.

• Rehabilitation of the “fishing pier” known as “the old bridge” on Caminada Pass at Grand Isle.  Partially destroyed by fire in September 2009, the bridge has served thousands of recreational crabbers and anglers for decades and its redevelopment as a fishing pier would be welcome compensation for the hundreds of thousands of recreational fishing hours and opportunities lost across coastal Louisiana during the oil spill.  

• Establishment of a public recreation area, a “State Seashore,” along the 12-14 mile length of the Caminada Headland between Caminada and Belle Passes in conjunction with the Caminada Headland Ecosystem Restoration Project.

“Louisianans and those from outside our state who visit each summer to fish and crab, bird watch, beach comb and enjoy our coast lost out on an entire season of enjoyment, and those activities continue to be restricted today because of response to the oil spill,” Lanctot said.