U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Conducting Initial Damage Assessments to Wildlife and National Wildlife Refuges
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contacts: Jeffrey Fleming, 404-679-7287
Refuges covering nearly 365,000 acres still closed: In Alabama, 6,816-acre Bon Secour NWR in Gulf Shores; 4.218-acre Choctaw NWR in Jackson. In Mississippi, 14,060-acre Grand Bay NWR; 20,000-acre Mississippi Sandhill Crane NWR in Gautier; 48,000-acre Noxubee NWR in Brooksville; 24,445-acre St. Catherine Creek NWR in Sibley. In Louisiana, 15,222-acre Atchafalaya NWR in Whiskey Bay; 22,770-acre Bayou Sauvage NWR in New Orleans; 9,028-acre Bayou Teche NWR in Franklin; 17,094-acre Big Branch Marsh NWR in Lacombe; 37,600-acre Bogue Chitto NWR in Pearl River; 13-000-acre Breton NWR in Gulf of Mexico; 9,463-acre Cat Island NWR in St. Francisville; 48,800-acre Delta NWR in Venice; 4,212-acre Mandalay NWR in Houma; 70,000-acre Tensas NWR in Tallulah
Breton National Wildlife Refuge now about half its previous size: Breton NWR, which is part of the Chandeleur Islands and celebrated its centennial last year, is roughly half the size it was before Hurricane Katrina swept across the Gulf Coast last week.
Red-cockaded woodpeckers: Significant numbers of trees are down at Noxubee NWR, and these include cavity trees used by roosting and nesting red-cockaded woodpeckers. Tree loss also will impact foraging habitat for these endangered birds.
Coastal Wetlands Impacts: Though it is still early and more analysis is needed, the Service and its partners have completed some preliminary assessments and expect significant coastal wetland impacts. Coastal marshes in the Mississippi River delta and the Parishes south of New Orleans were hard hit by winds, surge, and saltwater. Spartina was extensively uprooted, and Phragmites was laid over and "burned" by saline storm surge. Further spatial analyses will be needed to quantify the acreage of those wetlands that were converted to open water. Coastal forested wetlands in the eastern Lake Pontchartrain Basin to the Pearl River were defoliated, and heavy damage to standing trees was sustained. Prior to Hurricane Katrina, roughly 23 square miles of valuable coastal wetlands were being lost annually.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprised of more than 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fish and wildlife management offices, and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to State fish and wildlife agencies.
NOTE: You can view our releases or subscribe to receive them -- via e-mail -- at the Service's Southeast Regional home page at http://www.fws.gov/southeast. Our national home page is at: http://www.fws.gov/news/newsreleases/, Atlanta, GA 30345, phone: 404/679-7289 Fax: 404/679-7286