Dr. Tom Moorman's Letter on the Gulf Coast
Before and after the oil spill: DU's habitat work continues
With the situation changing rapidly along coastal Louisiana due to the recent oil spill, DU scientist Dr. Tom Moorman, director of conservation planning in the Southern Region, offered these thoughts and observations concerning the coastal areas where DU works to provide habitat to sustain millions of wintering waterfowl and the resident mottled duck populations.As I continue to monitor the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, I find myself deeply saddened and concerned for the people, wildlife and wetlands along the Gulf Coast. My relationship with the Louisiana coastal marshes began what now seems now like a long time ago. In 1987, as a young graduate student, I began a study of mottled ducks. I had the good fortune to live for two years in Grand Chenier in Cameron Parish and to be out in the marsh daily collecting data for my research on mottled ducks. While there, I was schooled by some of the best coastal marsh managers and naturalists in the country. I soaked it all in and learned everything I could – but I did not realize then how much the marsh gets into your blood, and how it can become part of the fabric of one's life. It is the place where I came to understand what the phrase "connection to the land" really means.
Locally and regionally the residents of the Gulf Coast are vitally connected to the marsh – for many it is where they go to work to support their families. Some 2 million residents or 47 percent of the population of Louisiana lives in the coastal parishes. Many have livelihoods that depend in some way on the marsh. Yet, in the broader sense, we all must remember we are connected to the land, and we are all connected to the Louisiana coastal marsh.
It is difficult for some to define "connection to the land" because in one sense it is an emotional connection that is hard to convey, but in another it is a very real connection that can be represented by statistics. While the facts have been stated by many, they are worth repeating: (1)these wetlands comprise the most important wintering area for waterfowl in North America; (2) the Louisiana coastal wetlands serve as nursery grounds and ultimately provide more than 20 percent of the commercial seafood landings in the lower 48 states – including the lion's share of the shrimp and blue crabs we enjoy on our tables; (3) about 20 percent of the waterborne commerce of the United States arrives or departs via ports protected by the Louisiana coastal marsh; (4) recreational hunting and fishing is approximately a $2.7 billion dollar economic engine in the state, much of it fueled by coastal marsh related fishing and waterfowl hunting opportunities; (5) and yes, when offshore oil and gas production is considered, Louisiana ranks first in crude oil production, and second in natural gas production – energy that flows throughout the country and an important factor in the nation's economy. (continued)