By: America's WETLAND Campaign Staff | 7.11.2007
MEMPHIS, TENN. - At Mud Island Park today, Ducks Unlimited representatives, Memphis port leaders, and state and local elected officials greeted a group traveling up the Mississippi River to bring a message of caution for the 31 states of the Mississippi River Basin: Louisiana's vanishing coastline signals an alert to the nation.
Representatives from area Congressional offices joined Shelby County and city officials in welcoming the America's WETLAND Foundation, the Women of the Storm and the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) to Memphis, their first stop. The initiative was launched on May 31, the cusp of hurricane season, with an event at the Port of New Orleans.
These coastal advocates have joined forces to spread the word of how Louisiana's coastal land loss affects states whose security and economy are tied to the Mississippi River.
"As the Executive Director of the Port of Memphis, I understand how the people of Memphis and our nation's economy are both tied to the Mississippi delta," said port chief Donald C. McCrory. "As a past State Chairman of Ducks Unlimited, I am keenly aware of the ecological significance of losing precious wetland habitats that support waterfowl and many other species."
Ducks Unlimited has partnered with the Women of the Storm and the America's WETLAND Foundation to demonstrate the impact Louisiana's coastal wetland loss has on Memphis, the nation and the world. Annually, as many as 10 million ducks, geese and other birds migrate south through the Mississippi and Central flyways to spend the winter along the Louisiana coast and points south.
"Many people don't realize the importance of the old-fashioned notion of working together," said Anne Milling, founder of Women of the Storm, a non-political, non-partisan group of diverse women from metropolitan New Orleans and south Louisiana who join to draw attention of Congress and national opinion leaders to the region.
"But when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit Louisiana in 2005, we called on our nation's leaders to personally view the tragedy. It was not only about the thousands of lives in Louisiana that were affected, it was also about fuel prices and domestic energy security. It was about our country's supply of seafood. It was about one of the richest national areas for migratory birds and other species. All Americans were - and continue to be - affected by the storms and their aftermath. We came to Memphis to illustrate how closely all of us who depend on the Mississippi River are linked."
The critical habitat of coastal Louisiana is disappearing at the alarming rate of a football field every 38 minutes, threatening not only waterfowl populations but also more than 70 rare threatened and endangered species that live there.
In the race against time to save North America's wetlands, Ducks Unlimited has launched one of the largest wetlands conservation campaigns in history, designed to raise $1.7 billion by 2011 to conserve North America's wetlands for future generations. "To lose thousands of acres of coastal Louisiana marsh would be devastating to this continent's waterfowl and the people who depend on these marshes for their livelihood and enjoyment," said Ross Melinchuk, director of public policy for Ducks Unlimited. "We work with the America's WETLAND Campaign to save these vital natural treasures, and we don't want to have to describe wetlands to my future grandchildren. We want to be able to show them these wonderful places."
Both the America's WETLAND Campaign and Ducks Unlimited have worked with Shell to extend messages of conservation and wetland protection. Shell sponsored the completion of the America's WETLAND Birding Trail, connecting trails along the Gulf Coast in Texas and Mississippi, and the company has supported wetland restoration with Ducks Unlimited. "Shell's commitment to a sustainable coast comes with the belief that habitat restoration and protection will ensure that the magnificent wildlife of the Mississippi River region will grow and prosper," said Mary Margaret Hamilton, Shell social investment manager. "Healthy wetlands are good for both people and animals, and Shell will continue to make it a focus of our cause-related work."
In the recent legislative session, Louisiana also passed historic measures that will have broad national impact on ecosystem restoration and hurricane protection. "The Louisiana legislature unanimously approved a comprehensive master plan for coastal restoration and protection," said Sidney Coffee, CPRA Chair. "Our state is committed to protecting the resources of the Mississippi Delta - the valuable animal and marine habitat and the critical infrastructure that provides more than 80 percent of the domestic offshore oil and gas supply for our nation. America depends on Louisiana's coast for its energy, its navigation, its fisheries and its wildlife habitat. We are truly all connected."
Beyond catastrophic wetland loss, the devastation left in the wakes of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 resulted in economic and energy disruptions up and down the Mississippi River. The continuing disappearance of Louisiana's coastal wetlands, which act as a natural hurricane buffer, is directly tied to America's economic and energy future as well as commercial and conservation interests along the Mississippi. The event at Mud Island illustrated the linkages of Mississippi River Basin states and the importance of protecting the coastal wetlands as a vital part of the river system.
"Women of the Storm" is a non-partisan non-political alliance of Louisiana women whose families, businesses and lives were affected by Hurricanes Katrina and/or Rita. Members are culturally, socially and economically diverse. Bound by their passion for their communities, Women of the Storm educate the elected leadership of this country about the urgent needs of the areas affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita for safe and secure neighborhoods and communities. The group offers educational tours, data and personal stories about families whose lives have been forever altered by the 2005 hurricane season. For more information on the Women of the Storm visit www.womenofthestorm.net.
The America's WETLAND Foundation runs the largest, most comprehensive public education campaign in Louisiana history. The Campaign was launched to raise public awareness of the impact of Louisiana's wetland loss on the state, nation and world. The initiative is supported by a growing coalition of world, national and state conservation and environmental organizations and has drawn private support from businesses that see wetlands protection as a key to economic growth.
This message and other America's WETLAND campaign activities are made possible by the generous support of "World Sponsor" Shell; "National Sponsors": Acadian Ambulance Service, AE Com Coastal, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana, BP, British Gas, CH2M HILL, ChevronTexaco, CITGO Petroleum Corporation, Coca-Cola Enterprises and Baton Rouge Coca-Cola Bottling Company, ConocoPhillips, Cox Communications, Dow Chemical Company, Dreamsite Productions, Spectra Energy, ExxonMobil Corporation, Freeport McMoRan, Louisiana Network, McIlhenny Company, The Shaw Group and Whitney National Bank; State Education Sponsor: ChevronTexaco; and Louisiana Sponsors: the Greater New Orleans Foundation, the Louisiana Lottery Corporation, New Orleans Hornets, New Orleans Saints, and the Paragon Casino Resort.
If your organization would like to join this growing list of forward-thinking businesses that see wetlands protection as a key to economic growth, call the campaign's offices at 1-866-4-WETLAND (1-866-493-8526) or email a campaign representative at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The America's WETLAND Foundation manages the largest, most comprehensive public education campaign in Louisiana's history, raising public awareness of the impact of Louisiana's wetland loss on the state, nation and world. The America's Energy Coast initiative works to sustain the environmental and economic assets of the Gulf Coast region. The initiative is supported by a growing coalition of world, national and state conservation and environmental organizations and has drawn private support from businesses that see wetlands protection as a key to economic growth. For more information, visit www.americaswetland.com or www.futureofthegulfcoast.org.
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