Projects and Research

North Breton Island is an important barrier island in Louisiana. It provides habitat for one of the largest water bird colonies in the state, including one of the largest rookeries for brown pelicans. The island also provides crucial protection for mainland Louisiana, including the City of New Orleans, from storm surge and wave impacts.

We monitor the brown pelicans and other birds that nest on the refuge to assess population trends.

In 2005, the refuge took a direct hit from Hurricane Katrina, losing 70% of its land base. Large areas of beach and marsh were destroyed and much of the vegetation that stabilizes the islands and provides habitat for the pelicans and other wildlife was uprooted or damaged. We are working with our partners to respond to the many problems created by storm damages to the islands. It would take many years for the islands to recover naturally (if ever) so we initiated small scale projects like sand-fencing, berms, and revegetation to help restore habitat on the islands. We are monitoring the brown pelicans and other birds that return to nest on the islands to document population trends.

In 2010, Breton NWR was directly impacted by the oil released from the Deepwater Horizon explosion. We immediately responded and organized containment and absorbent booms around the refuge. Shrimp boats turned into oil skimmers patrolled the perimeter of the refuge. In spite of valiant efforts to protect the habitat, impacts to birds and other wildlife on the refuge occurred. 

After the oil spill, federal and state agencies came together to form the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustee Council. The Council studied the effects of the oil spill and is now working to restore the Gulf of Mexico to the condition it would have been in if the spill had not happened. The Council is using $72 million from a historic settlement with BP to increase North Breton Island by hundreds of acres. The project is pumping sand from a local underwater source about three miles away, called a borrow site, and using it to expand the size of the island. The additional acreage will provide nesting habitats for threatened and endangered birds such as the brown pelican and least tern. It will also benefit the red knots and piping plovers that forage for food there in the winter.

This land building restoration work on North Breton Island began in 2020, as the first of 5.87 million cubic yards of dredged sand was placed on the island. This project will add 400 acres of barrier island wildlife habitat to address some of the injuries to birds caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The project was approved in 2014 as one of the three components of the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) Phase III Early Restoration Louisiana Outer Coast Project.