Using Sound Science, Fish and Wildlife Service Addresses Urgent Habitat Needs for Birds and Other Wildlife Along the Gulf Coast
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 8, 2010
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is coordinating efforts along the Gulf Coast to safeguard wildlife such as shorebirds, waterfowl, marsh birds, sea birds, and sea turtles from the effects of oil. Working closely with state, federal and non-government partners, the Service is identifying the most pressing habitat needs of these at-risk species, recommending strategic habitat conservation activities to address those needs, and helping to implement projects along the coast from Florida to Texas.
Based on the current distribution and impacts of oil along the Gulf’s marshes and coastline and the millions of waterfowl and shorebirds that will soon migrate through or will spend the winter in this area, Service biologists are working to restore and bolster wetland habitats and food sources in nearby, uncontaminated areas in Louisiana, the Chenier Plain of east Texas, and the lower portion of the Mississippi Alluvial Valley.
These efforts are designed to restore and protect habitat for resident species along the Gulf Coast, as well as to address concerns about the coming fall migration of some 5 million waterfowl and other migratory birds that will arrive in or pass through the Gulf Coast region throughout the fall and winter months. By quickly initiating these habitat conservation projects, the Service and its partners hope to minimize the chance that migrating or wintering birds will come into contact with contaminated coastal habitats. Also, because food resources for migrating birds have been reduced, degraded or lost due to the oil spill, the Service and its partners’ efforts will help ensure the availability of adequate food to compensate for these losses.
Leading the development and implementation of migratory bird habitat restoration projects along the Gulf Coast are the Service’s Joint Ventures -- collaborative, regionally based, public-private partnerships that work to conserve bird habitat within specific geographic regions. Joint Venture scientists are providing the strategic and scientific underpinnings for habitat restoration efforts, bringing together conservation partners and marshalling resources to address spill impacts to wildlife in the short and long term.
“We know that clean-up and recovery from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill will be a long-term process, but we cannot wait to begin assessing and dealing with the impacts to our natural resources,” said Dan Ashe, Acting Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service. “For migratory bird conservation, the Joint Ventures are the forum of multiple partners, including scientists and wildlife managers, leading our inclusive, strategic, and adaptive response to the ever-changing situation in the Gulf.”
Migratory bird habitat restoration will help support many other species, including mammals, fish, and reptiles. The Service is working with a wide network of partners to specifically address the needs of these other species. The agency is working with partners to establish Landscape Conservation Cooperatives that will eventually provide this same level of science and planning for all wildlife species.
The Service’s habitat restoration efforts will also support the Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative, an effort launched by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to work with farmers, ranchers and other landowners to manage portions of their land to enhance habitat for migrating birds in portions of eight states.
Through two components – one available on private agricultural lands and the second on Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) easement lands -- NRCS will work in cooperation with private landowners and other partners to establish habitat and food sources as well as improve the overall habitat management on participating lands.
More information about the NRCS Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative is at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/news/nrcs_migratory_birds.html.