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Posts Tagged ‘Louisiana wetlands BP Horizon Gulf Disaster’

As efforts to restore the Mississippi River Delta roll forward, sportsmen from across the nation continue to lend a hand – offering voice and influence to rebuild this special place. The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) along with other important partners has been at the forefront of these efforts – nationally and regionally – for decades.

With the creation of the Vanishing Paradise campaign in 2009, NWF began to nationalize efforts to restore the delta by educating hunters and anglers about the issue, as well as engaging and mobilizing them to action.

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The Vanishing Paradise Advisory Council and staff at Ryan Lambert’s Cajun Fishing Adventures lodge in Buras, Louisiana. Front, from left: Land Tawney, Eric Cosby, Teeg Stouffer and David Dellucci. Row 2, from left: Ben Weber, Ryan Lambert, Andy McDaniels, Gabe Galster, Tim Kizer, Hal Herring and Jared Mott. Rear, from left: Noel Vick and Lew Carpenter.

Vanishing Paradise has had many successes to date culminating in the securing of funds from the BP oil spill back to restoration in late June through the RESTORE Act. Now, NWF has formed a Vanishing Paradise Sportsmen’s Advisory Council (VPSAC) to enhance and expand its relationships with our nation’s sportsmen and women who have a passion to carry on our collective conservation legacy. Council members were asked to join the council because of their passion for passing on a conservation legacy, knowledge within the sportsmen community and capacity (in the form of volunteer time, relationships and expertise). Members include representatives from the hunting and fishing industry, conservation community and media who have a keen interest in the Mississippi River Delta.

“As a resident of Louisiana, some of my fondest childhood memories in the outdoors are of my trips to the Louisiana marshes duck hunting and red fishing with my dad and grandfather,” said VPSAC member David Dellucci, Baton Rouge native and former World Series professional outfielder. “I have personally seen the rapidly eroding coastline through the years, and as a father myself I want to make sure my child has the same opportunities enjoying our “Sportsman’s Paradise” that I had. I am proud to be with such a motivated group who is not interested in blaming the possible causes but determined to fix the problem.”

In addition to providing a diverse perspective to the Vanishing Paradise staff, the Advisory Council will focus its attention on a three-part mission of enhancing the organization’s political strength, strengthening its financial condition for the future and engaging the sporting community through public relations, media and personal contact.

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VPSAC members (from left) Gabe Galster and Tim Kizer along with fishing guide Joe Dimarco and what turned out to be a chaotic triple hook-up and even more chaotic choreographed netting. Photo by Lew Carpenter

In mid-March, the VPSAC held its first of many meetings, starting with a day in the marsh – a place held sacred to each member.

“Vanishing Paradise is championing a cause that I feel could be the greatest conservation project in my lifetime,” said Gabe Galster of Arkansas.  “Not only is the focus of this project dear to my heart, but there is a clear pathway to achieving success.  In the end, I want to be able to have a part in saving one of the most environmentally and culturally rich regions of our great country.  I want it here for my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren to enjoy much as I have over the last 20 years, but  without swift action we may reach a point of no return.  VP offers the platform from which this message can be spread and action initiated.”Council members and Vanishing Paradise staff connected with each other

Cajun Fishing Adventure’s guide Joe Dimarco (left) and VPSAC member from Arkansas, Gabe Galster working a canal near Quarantine Bay for redfish. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Cajun Fishing Adventure’s guide Joe Dimarco (left) and VPSAC member from Arkansas, Gabe Galster working a canal near Quarantine Bay for redfish. Photo by Lew Carpenter

– and the magnificent resource they are entrusted to restore – while fishing for bull redfish, a trophy species of the marsh that annually draws thousands of anglers to the region.

The group also got down to business on a strategy for moving forward with Vanishing Paradise’s overarching goal of reconnecting the Mississippi River to its wetlands.”

“We want to open up the Mississippi River to the marshlands by creating diversions in strategic locations in the levee and marsh canal system,” said Arkansas native and VPSAC chair Tim Kizer. “By doing so we will allow the river system to naturally distribute sediment that will rebuild critical wetlands that provide nutrient filtration, physical tidal buffers for hurricane protection and erosion control along the Louisiana Gulf Coast.”

The council, as a group and as individual sportsmen, agreed to the following three- to five-year milestone objectives:

  • Develop and implement an internal and external hunter/angler conservation communication strategy;
  • Advocate for responsible, strategic implementation of BP oil spill fine funds;
  • Secure an additional $5 billion for Mississippi River Delta restoration;
  • Secure sustainable funding for the Vanishing Paradise campaign;
  • Prioritize additional conservation issues and develop strategies to address them.

As with any large-scale habitat restoration project, these tasks won’t be easy. But with the passionate, motivated and diverse group of new VPSAC members, the path forward is in play, and a nation of hunters and anglers will both engage and benefit in the restoration of America’s world-class habitat for fish and wildlife.

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Vanishing Paradise campaign director Land Tawney with a 34-inch bull redfish. Photo by Noel Vick

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“We look forward to working with the Council as it continues to develop a comprehensive plan that will successfully restore the Gulf and the dynamic hunting and fishing industry this incredible ecosystem supports.”

New Orleans, LA (January 31, 2013)—The Gulf Ecosystem Restoration Council released a “path forward” document this week broadly outlining how RESTORE Act funds can be used to restore the Gulf Coast.

20120218-123704.jpgLeaders of the Vanishing Paradise campaign, a nationwide sportsman’s effort to restore the Louisiana Wildlife Federation, say they are looking forward to working with the council as it further refines its plans to restore the fish and wildlife habitats of the Gulf of Mexico.

“Every single dollar we spend conserving habitat, restoring water quality, protecting coastal and marine resources, and enhancing community resiliency will come back to us many times over—positively affecting the nation’s economy now and for generations to come,” said Land Tawney, NWF’s senior manager for sportsmen leadership. “We look forward to working with the Council as it continues to develop a comprehensive plan that will successfully restore the Gulf and the dynamic hunting and fishing industry this incredible ecosystem supports.”

“Louisiana loses an area of marsh the size of a football field every hour,” DU Director of Public Policy and co-lead of Vanishing Paradise Barton James said. “The Council’s plan is another milestone in large-scale coastal restoration policy.”

“Louisiana’s coast hosts world class fishing and hunting and is an integral part of the health of the state’s and nation’s economy,” said Louisiana Wildlife Federation Coastal Outreach Coordinator Chris Macaluso. “Unfortunately the oil spill in 2010 heaped more damage on top of nearly a century of habitat loss in Louisiana that threatens coastal communities, economies and deep-rooted cultural ties to hunting and fishing. We need to build vital habitat restoration projects, some of which have been discussed and designed for decades. Importantly, the path forward also acknowledges the need to break down the bureaucratic impediments that have stalled large-scale coastal restoration efforts in our state.”

Background
The Gulf Ecosystem Restoration Council is charged with developing a comprehensive plan to restore the Gulf environment and the Council directly oversees expenditure of 30 percent of RESTORE Act funds for the ecological restoration projects specified in that comprehensive plan.

This “Path Forward” is the beginning of a process that will culminate in a plan scheduled to be completed and released in July 2013.

The Gulf states and federal agencies have already agreed to the strategy and restoration goals developed by the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force. These provide the basis for the large-scale restoration plan that is needed to make good on national promises to the Gulf region.

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Louisiana Sportsman magazine owner Tony Taylor and a thick flounder. Photo: Lew Carpenter

Venice, LA – The incredible value of the Louisiana wetlands spans economic, cultural and environmental functions too great to be lost by any one generation. And as the rapid loss of wetlands continues it is important to note that we can fix this problem. We must. It’s a responsibility we have to be sure future generations can enjoy one of the world’s great ecosystems.

Just how important this resource is to sportsmen was never more evident than this past week when a hearty group of anglers descended upon the marsh to chase bull redfish as they have each year for well beyond a decade. This group of more than 50 anglers engage in a self-titled “Marsh Madness” event that brings together boaters from Louisiana and Mississippi with hunting and fishing industry representatives, outdoor writers and Vanishing Paradise. Many proclaimed the fishing has never been more dynamic – a galvanizing statement that places the value of this resource in the crosshairs of the importance of restoration. We simply cannot afford to lose this sportsman’s paradise.

Heading into a violent batch of thunderstorms that seemed to camp directly on the marsh it was tough to determine how the three days of fishing would unfold. Day one we waited out the torrential morning rains and headed out around lunch into strong winds and dark skies.

Tony Taylor, owner of Louisiana Sportsman magazine remarked on the damage of Hurricane Isaac as he made his first dive into the marsh since the devastation.  “It’s hammered, it’s blown out,” he remarked, as we pushed through the marsh looking for clean water and cover from the wind. The roseau cane was battered and flattened everywhere we looked and it was obvious the hurricane had compounded the rapid loss of wetlands in the area. Without a good source of incoming freshwater sediment the marshes ability to recover is severely compromised.

Author Lew Carpenter with an 18-pound bull redfish. Photo: Land Tawney

We picked away at the rat reds until we moved into the river and Taylor’s rod bent further than one could imagine. The fight went on for 15 minutes before a fat jack crevalle came to boat. From that point on we were into decent reds and big flounder – all on the great jigs provided by Top Brass Tackle, the organizer of the event and ZMan plastic baits.

Day two, the weather began to subside, though it was cool by Louisiana standards. The red were increasing in size as we pitched along the rip rocks, points and cuts of the marsh edge.

Day three, the magic revealed itself. The class size of the reds increased. I landed an 18 pounder and followed it with a 16 before we headed to South Pass and nearly every fish was between 12 and 30 pounds! If this wasn’t a testament for saving the marsh, nothing would be. One fish after another came to boat all afternoon, mixed in with powerful jack crevalle, sharks and speckled trout to 8 pounds. It was a remarkable sight, and an unforgettable experience.

The Marsh Madness team truly understands the value of this special place, and some, like Eric Cosby of Top Brass have traveled in

Eric Cosby of Top Brass Tackle and a nice jack crevalle. Photo: Lew Carpenter

the recent past to Washington DC to speak to their senators about passing the Restore Act. With the help of sportsmen, the Act was passed this summer, directing 80 percent of the BP oil spill fines under the Clean Water Act to go back into restoring the wetlands. A great victory for sportsmen and the ecosystem.

And it’s not just these sportsmen of Marsh Madness who care, Field and Stream and other media outlets are reporting on a recent poll by GOP-aligned polling firm Chesapeake Beach Consulting on key conservation issues among 800 hunters and anglers conducted for the National Wildlife Federation. The poll shows this fairly conservative set of voters wants more action on a range of conservation issues that remain inadequately address in this election cycle. The composition of respondents was 55% both anglers and hunters; 33% anglers only; and 12% hunters only. NWF and its local affiliates, field and supporters are urging candidates for office around the nation to pay more attention to critical conservation issues.

The political preferences of those polled was:

• 42%, Republican; 32%, Independent; 18% Democrat;

• 27% indicated they split their ticket;

• 50% consider themselves conservative, including 22% who consider themselves to be very conservative;

• 60% said that they vote in every election and additional 21% said they vote in almost all elections.

The sample was randomly drawn from a list of self-identified hunters and anglers (sources included magazine subscribers, hunting and fishing license holders, and members of sporting groups). To qualify, a respondent had to indicate that he/she is a hunter, an angler or both and a registered voter. All interviews were conducted by telephone, including 15% of the interviews by cell phone. The margin of error for this study is plus or minus 3.2% at the 95% confidence level.

The poll offers some insights for the Louisiana wetlands and the region as it continues to recover from the BP disaster.

Among respondents in the national poll:

• 81% believe that BP should be held accountable and fined the maximum amount allowed for the 2010 oil spill and required to restore the Gulf to ensure the recovery of fish and wildlife populations.

  • 87% of hunters and anglers want BP fines and penalties to be used exclusively to restore fish and wildlife habitat and not for infrastructure such as roads, bridges, ports and convention centers.  For those who identify with a political party, 81% of Democrats and 88% of Republicans agree.

Many of the sponsors for Marsh Madness signed on to NWF’s letter to Congress on the Restore Act, and we’d like to thank Top Brass Tackle, Plano Molding, BASS, Louisiana Sportsman magazine, Seaguar Line, WileyX sunglasses, ZMan baits, RealTree Camo, Skeeter Boats, and Under Armor clothing for their support of this event and its ability to highlight the tremendous value these wetlands provide to the American sportsman and the wildlife within.

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It was one month ago today that an explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig killed 11 workers and marked the beginning of what is now being called the largest environmental disaster in America’s history.

Check out this summary page of the past months events and impacts to date: http://www.nwf.org/News-and-Magazines/Media-Center/News-by-Topic/Wildlife/2010/05-20-10-Oil-Spill-One-Month.aspx

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