When the United States paid France $15 million two centuries ago for 828,000 square miles of land west of the Mississippi River, known as the Louisiana Purchase, it was described as the greatest real estate deal in history.
More than 200 years later, we are losing the heart of this purchase - America's WETLAND.
America's WETLAND is one of the largest and most productive expanses of coastal wetlands in North America. This valuable landscape extending along Louisiana's coast is disappearing at a rate of 25-35 square miles per year.
Ecological and Economic Impacts for the Nation and the World
America's WETLAND, the seventh largest delta on earth, is of world ecological significance. The potential collapse of this intricate ecosystem will have enormous negative environmental consequences for wildlife habitat and marine life. It is also a working wetland. More than 25% of all oil and gas consumed in this nation comes across Louisiana's shore by tanker, barge or pipeline. It is from this area that distribution of energy for the entire eastern U.S. begins.
As the protective wetlands and barrier islands disappear, oil and gas infrastructure along the coast becomes exposed to open Gulf conditions. Wells, pipelines, ports, roads and levees that are key to energy delivery become more vulnerable and the potential for damaging oil spills increases. As these conditions worsen, the environmental damage in the event of a hurricane or storm is unthinkable and the nation's economic and energy security is put at risk; the probability for interruption of oil and gas production and distribution increases.
Protection for the Nation's Ports, Cities and Inland Waterways
America's WETLAND serves as protection from hurricanes and storm surges for more than two million people living in the coastal zone, including the city of New Orleans. It acts as a buffer for the number one port system in the United States, responsible for moving the nation's goods to world markets.
The Gulf Intracoastal Waterway was built through these wetlands in the early 1900s. This shallow-draft canal, an integral part of the inland transportation system of the United States, makes it possible to supply domestic and foreign markets with chemicals, agriculture products and other essential goods from America's heartland. Wetland loss along Louisiana's shore poses an immediate threat to this vital water transportation route once sheltered by wetlands.
Dead Zone, Nursery Ground and Wildlife Habitat
America's WETLAND accepts the drainage of 41% of the United States through the lower Mississippi River system, along with high concentrations of nitrogen from agricultural runoff. This contributes to a growing hypoxia problem and results in the largest dead zone in the world off Louisiana's shore.
America's WETLAND is the natural nursery ground for much of the country's seafood, with 95% of all marine life in the Gulf of Mexico spending all or part of its life cycle in these coastal wetlands. America's WETLAND is the wintering habitat for more than 10 million waterfowl and migratory birds in the Mississippi Flyway and Central Flyway. As the wetlands disappear, habitat is lost, threatening national refuges and putting at risk numerous threatened and endangered species.
Integrated Ecosystem Restoration and Hurricane Protection:
Louisiana's Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast
The Louisiana Legislature approved the CPRA's master plan for coastal restoration and hurricane protection on May 30, 2007. The plan is the first document to completely incorporate hurricane protection projects with projects aimed at rebuilding Louisiana's rapidly eroding coastal wetlands. The plan reflects more than 18 months of research, stakeholder and scientific review and writing. It will be the guide for all coastal restoration and hurricane protection efforts in Louisiana over the next several decades. Please visit http://lacpra.org/ to download a copy of the plan.
The State of Louisiana and the America's WETLAND Foundation are raising public awareness of the impact Louisiana's wetland loss has on the state, nation and world and will gain support for efforts to save coastal Louisiana. In the largest, most comprehensive public education initiative in its history, the Foundation launched America's WETLAND: Campaign to Save Coastal Louisiana in August 2002. Since then the Campaign has established the values and significance of this vast world ecological region and highlighted the pending economic and energy security threat posed to our nation by its destruction. The America's WETLAND Campaign has elevated issues associated with Louisiana's coastal land loss at local and state levels to national and world status. The State of Louisiana, with support from its congressional delegation, state legislature, and prominent business and civic leaders, will set the foundation and momentum for this global initiative. The America's WETLAND Campaign has partnered with many organizations to bring the issue of Louisiana's land loss to the attention of the nation. Some of those groups include the Women of the Storm, the Coast Guardians and initiatives like America's Energy Coast. Please visit those sites to learn more about our ongoing work.