Archive for Hunting and Fishing


Flora of the Wax Lake Delta: One of Louisiana’s best-kept secrets to coastal restoration

December 1, 2014 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Hunting and Fishing, Wax Lake Delta

By Maggie Yancey, National Wildlife Federation

The Wax Lake Delta, a lush secluded enclave of natural beauty located in Louisiana’s Atchafalaya River Basin, is a hunter’s paradise among many wonders most people wouldn’t expect. The delta is known for offering excellent waterfowl hunting, and the open season welcomes more than 1,000 hunters per year to the 40,000-acre wildlife management area.

However, most people aren’t aware that the Wax Lake Delta didn’t always exist. In fact, the Wax Lake Delta was historically an open water basin. The miracle lies in the roughly 18 square miles of newly formed delta while most of Louisiana’s coast has experienced catastrophic land loss. Today, the Wax Lake Delta provides the perfect nesting habitat for a variety of birds and waterfowl.

In 1941, an outlet was constructed to divert approximately one-third of the Atchafalaya River’s discharge to reduce water levels at a nearby port. The Wax Lake Delta is an early stage of a prograding delta, which is a term used for a process of land building that provides ecological succession. The Mississippi River Delta loses the equivalent of a football field of land every hour making the Wax Lake Delta an important example of how to rebuild lost delta resources.

To understand how the delta attracts herons, egrets, ibis and other wading birds, let’s look at five plants that demonstrate the beauty and viability of the Wax Lake Delta.

#1: Floating Flora

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A positive signal of a thriving ecosystem is birds. In the background, there are two Roseate Spoonbills feeding on small fish and crustaceans, like shrimp and crawfish. Food sources feed on fish and crawfish that hide in floating plants like the floating fern.

#2: Lotus

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The presence of lotus also indicates conditions that are favorable for water lilies, sedges, reeds and grasses. These species only grow in shallow waters, where their growth clearly indicates water depth. They also make great camouflage for predatory reptiles like alligators.

The next three plant species were found in a wooded area located on a track of land that formed an island, Belle Isle, located in the Atchafalaya Basin.

#3: Jack and the Pulpit

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This Jack and the Pulpit was shown in full bloom. Before blooming, there is a spathe on the plant that looks like an old fashioned pulpit. The plant is extremely toxic and is poisonous when consumed.

#4: American Beautyberry Plant

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This species of beautyberry is an important food source to more than 40 species of songbirds, such as the American Robin and the Purple Finch.

#5 Ferns

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Along with the southern shield wood fern, there are several species of ferns that were found on Belle Isle. This fern featured in the picture was a unique species that opens up when the leaves receive water.

Taking a look at these unique plants indicate the success of what can be grown on newly formed land and in marsh habitats. These new introductions of unusual plant species are inspiring for coastal restoration efforts.  The new growth also gives the opportunity for wildlife to flourish.

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Gulf Tourism Depends on a Healthy Gulf

July 9, 2013 | Posted by Rachel Schott in Economy, Hunting and Fishing, Latest News, Media Resources, Reports, Seafood, Wildlife, Wildlife tourism

PRESS RELEASE

Contacts:
Molly Moore, Sanderson Strategies Group, 202.682.3700, molly@sandersonstrategies.com
Elizabeth Skree, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, eskree@edf.org

Gulf Tourism Depends on a Healthy Gulf

New report shows wildlife tourism is central to Gulf Coast economy

(New Orleans—July 9, 2013) The coastal environment of the Gulf of Mexico supports a $19 billion annual wildlife tourism industry that is highly dependent on critical investments in coastal environmental restoration, according to a survey released today by Datu Research LLC.

Wildlife Tourism and the Gulf Coast Economy” concludes that wildlife tourism is extremely valuable to the Gulf Coast economy and relies heavily on the health of the endangered Gulf Coast ecosystem in the five states of Louisiana, Florida, Texas, Alabama and Mississippi. Wildlife tourism includes recreational fishing, hunting and wildlife watching.

Key findings of the report show that wildlife tourism:

  • Generates more than $19 billion in annual spending.
  • Attracts 20 million participants annually across the five Gulf Coast states.
  • Delivers $5.3 billion annually in federal, state and tax revenues.

The study also found tourism jobs can account for 20-36 percent of all private jobs in coastal counties and parishes that are particularly dependent on wildlife activities. Those 53 counties and parishes have more than 25,000 tourism-related businesses and nearly 500,000 associated jobs.

The study reported that all forms of tourism generate 2.6 million jobs in the Gulf states, nearly five times the number of jobs provided by the region’s other three largest resource-based industries: commercial fishing, oil and gas, and shipping.

“With so many outdoor adventure opportunities, tourism is a critical industry to our coastal parishes,” Louisiana Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne said. “Sportsman’s Paradise is more than our state’s nickname. If Louisiana is to remain the Sportsman’s Paradise, we have to ensure that funds Louisiana receives as a result of the Deepwater Horizon spill are properly and wisely spent preserving our paradise.”

Lt. Gov. Dardenne will speak at a press conference Tuesday, July 9 in New Orleans along with Billy Nungesser, president, Plaquemines Parish; Charlotte Randolph, president, Lafourche Parish; John F. Young, Jr., president, Jefferson Parish; Capt. Ryan Lambert, owner, Cajun Fishing Adventures; Mark Romig, president, New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation; Alon Shaya, executive chef, Domenica, Besh Restaurant Group; and Marcy Lowe, president, Datu Research LLC.

The study’s findings underscore the direct connection between the health of the ecosystem and the economic health of the Gulf region and the urgency for using the pending influx of monies from the RESTORE Act and other payments resulting from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill to properly and effectively restore the fragile Gulf Coast ecosystems.

“The conservation solutions that last are the ones that make economic sense and consider the needs of local communities,” said Scott Burns, director of the environment program at the Walton Family Foundation, which helped fund the survey. “This study connects the dots between a healthy Gulf environment, abundant wildlife and the good jobs that depend on tourism. This report adds to the growing evidence that investing in real restoration in the Gulf is the best way to create jobs and build economic prosperity across the region.”

Datu Research LLC is an economic research firm whose principals were part of the Duke University Center on Globalization, Governance & Competitiveness. They have previously released three analyses of supply chains associated with the work of coastal restoration, showing that more than 400 businesses in 36 states would benefit from such work.

This study was funded by Environmental Defense Fund with support from the Walton Family Foundation.

Part II: Supporting comments

Comments from participants in release of study: Wildlife Tourism and the Gulf Coast Economy

John Young, president, Jefferson Parish: “This study further supports the direct link between a healthy coastal environment and a robust economy which depends on a $19 billion wildlife tourism industry. The well-being and continued growth of our coastal communities depend on the health of the Gulf, restoring and strengthening our fragile ecosystems, and promoting a wildlife tourism industry which can thrive, not only in Jefferson Parish but in all Gulf Coast states.”

Billy Nungesser, president, Plaquemines Parish: “Plaquemines Parish and Louisiana are the nation’s premier delta coastline. We are strategically positioned as the fishing capital of the world, the sportsmen’s paradise state and the seafood capital of the United States, and these factors which make Plaquemines and Louisiana unique depend on the health of our coast.”

Michael Hecht, president & CEO, Greater New Orleans, Inc.:  “Tourism overall, including wildlife tourism, provides 2.6 million jobs across the Gulf States – and many of these are with small businesses. To protect this vital economic base, as well as other important coastal industries, we must prioritize large-scale coastal restoration projects that will ensure a stable coast and healthy environment.”

Mark Romig, president,  New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation: “New Orleans attracts the experiential discover type of tourist, one who enjoys using the city as a base to go out and explore any authentic and unique aspects of the city and region, including the natural world. For the many businesses in this region, the need to restore and preserve our coastal wetlands is not optional; it’s an urgent economic necessity.”

Capt. Ryan Lambert, owner, Cajun Fishing Adventures: “I’ve grown up loving and making a living from the waters of the Louisiana coast and for more than 30 years, my business has been taking people fishing in those waters. But every year, as I see places disappearing from the map, I fear I may be part of the last generation to live off the water.”

Ralph Brennan, president, Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group: “Family restaurants like mine depend on a healthy Gulf Coast for the fresh seafood that has made New Orleans the culinary capital of the United States. The money states are beginning to receive to repair the damages from the Deepwater Horizon spill are our best – and may be our last real chance – to reverse decades of mistakes.”

Marcy Lowe, president, Datu Research LLC.: “This study shows the vital connection between the health of the ecosystem and the economic health of the Gulf region. Wildlife tourism is a major contributor to the Gulf Coast economy, but it’s very survival depends on the restoration of an endangered and irreplaceable ecosystem.”

Part III: Key study findings

Report: Wildlife Tourism and the Gulf Coast Economy

Key findings for the Gulf region

Wildlife Tourism and the Gulf Coast Economy,” a survey produced by Datu Research LLC, finds that in the five Gulf Coast states:

  • Tourism generates 2.6 million jobs, nearly five times the number of jobs created by the region’s other three largest resource-based industries combined: commercial fishing, oil and gas, and shipping.
  • In Gulf Coast coastal counties and parishes where economies are particularly dependent on tourism, 20-36 percent of all private sector employment is tourism-related.
  • Wildlife tourism, which includes wildlife watching, recreational fishing and hunting, generates more than $19 billion in annual spending.
  • Wildlife tourism generates $5.3 billion annually in federal, state and local tax revenues, divided roughly equally between local and state tax revenues and federal revenues. In 2011, Gulf Coast state and local governments received $2.5 billion and the federal government $2.8 billion from wildlife tourism. Recreational fishing generates the highest amount of tax revenue at $2.2 billion followed by $2 billion from wildlife watching and $1.2 billion from hunting.
  • Wildlife tourism attracts 20 million participants annually across the five Gulf Coast states. The wildlife tourism industry consists not only of wildlife guide businesses that directly serve wildlife tourists, but also the lodging and dining establishments where they eat and sleep.
  • Gulf Coast tourism – and wildlife tourism in particular – is highly dependent on a healthy coastal environment.
  • More than 11,000 lodging and dining establishments and 1,100 guide and outfitters businesses create business networks that depend on each other for referrals. In a survey of over 500 guide and outfitter businesses, about 40 percent of respondents said clients ask them for hotel recommendations and 55 percent said clients request restaurant recommendations. Likewise, more than 60 percent of guide businesses receive clients based on recommendations from hotels and restaurants.
  • Guide and outfitting operations represent a strong network of small businesses that have a large impact on local tourism. More than 86 percent of these businesses have one to five employees, and nearly 60 percent host more than 200 visitors per year, with many hosting several thousand.

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Duck Commander Urges Restoration of Mississippi River Delta's Imperiled Wetlands

December 12, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Hunting and Fishing, Media Resources, People

This release was originally posted by Vanishing Paradise.

By Chris Macaluso, Louisiana Wildlife Federation

Duck Commander, a world-leader in the manufacture of duck calls and waterfowl hunting equipment and the company featured in the A&E television program “Duck Dynasty,” recently added its name to a list of more than 800 businesses and organizations to sign a letter urging Congress to support the restoration of the Mississippi River Delta’s imperiled wetlands.

The letter is part of the Vanishing Paradise campaign’s efforts to encourage outdoorsmen and women and the organizations and businesses that support them to advocate for coastal restoration in Louisiana, where the Mississippi River meets the Gulf of Mexico. The Vanishing Paradise Campaign effort is headed by the National Wildlife Federation, the Louisiana Wildlife Federation and Ducks Unlimited.

Vanishing Paradise is delighted to announce that Duck Commander has signed onto to their letter to Congress in support of restoring the Mississippi River Delta — Click the image to LIKE and SHARE it on Facebook and help spread the news!

Duck Commander joins other world-renowned hunting and fishing equipment manufacturers and conservation organizations like B.A.S.S. Inc, Mercury Outboards, Shimano American Corp, Pure Fishing, Quantum, Plano Molding, Orvis, Frabill and the Coastal Conservation Association. Located in West Monroe, La., Duck Commander and its sister company Buck Commander join more than 150 other Louisiana companies and organizations to sign the letter.

“Duck Commander has long been a supporter of efforts to protect and restore our hunting and fishing habitats,” said Duck Commander Senior Manager Al Robertson. “Everyone working here at Duck Commander got into this business because we love to duck hunt. Without healthy wetlands, we lose opportunities to do what we love and we lose a chance to pass our love for the outdoors to the next generation. We are proud to support the Vanishing Paradise campaign.”

The marshes and swamps of the Mississippi River Delta offer world-class hunting and fishing opportunities. They are the wintering grounds for as many as 10 million ducks and geese migrating through the middle of North America and are the nursery for fish that populate the entire Gulf of Mexico.

Unfortunately, this unique and vital habitat is vanishing faster than any other landmass in the world. Levees along the Mississippi River have starved the area’s wetlands of vital sediment and freshwater while manmade canals have carved up wetlands and allowed saltwater to penetrate deep into freshwater and brackish swamps.

Nearly 2,000 square miles of coastal habitat has been lost along Louisiana’s coast in the last 80 years, an area equal to the size of the state of Delaware. Nearly 20 square miles sink or wash away every year. That land loss threatens hunting and fishing opportunities, entire communities and a unique culture and way of life.

“Losing wetlands in the Mississippi River Delta means the loss of healthy waterfowl populations in this country,” said National Wildlife Federation Senior Manager for Sportsman Leadership Land Tawney. “The Vanishing Paradise Campaign has played a vital role in securing some much needed funding for the restoration of the delta but there is an enormous amount of work to be done if we hope to fully address this dire land loss. The support of Duck Commander and other companies makes our work possible.”

Contact:
Chris Macaluso, Louisiana Wildlife Federation,
(225) 344-6707 or (225) 802-4048

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Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign to launch fall bird migration tour

October 3, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Birds, Hunting and Fishing, Meetings/Events

By Ryan Rastegar, Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign Coordinator

Migratory flight paths, including the Mississippi Flyway (National Audubon Society)

The Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign is organizing a fall migration tour! Throughout the months of October and November, our staff will be organizing events up and down the Mississippi River to highlight the important role the delta plays in maintaining a healthy Mississippi Flyway.

The Mississippi Flyway is a bird migration route that our winged friends generally follow along the Mississippi River when migrating south in the fall and north in the spring. Birds typically use this route because there are no mountains to block their path, making the trip easier and more direct. This route also provides easy access to water and food. About 40 percent of all North American migrating waterfowl and shorebirds use the Mississippi Flyway, which accounts for the higher number of bird species found in those areas!

The Mississippi River Delta itself supports more than 400 species of birds, providing critical breeding, wintering, and migratory stopover habitat for 100 million individual birds each year, including approximately 5 million ducks and geese.

The Mississippi Flyway (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)

Unfortunately, after decades of abuse and mismanagement, the delta is disappearing rapidly, sinking into the Gulf of Mexico. The collapse of the delta has the potential to disrupt this migration path, thereby decreasing not only the number of birds in the delta, but also along the entire Mississippi Flyway. We can restore the delta by connecting the Mississippi River to its wetlands, but we must act now before it is too late.

We’ll be planning tour events over the course of the next month to raise awareness of this issue all across the flyway and recruit activists who are ready to join the fight to restore the Mississippi River Delta. Our first event is this week at the John Borom Birdfest in Fairhope, Ala. Check back here to find out where we’re going and register for an event near you! And be sure to ‘like’ us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more updates!

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Poll: Hunters and Anglers Overwhelmingly Support Gulf Clean-up

September 26, 2012 | Posted by Elizabeth Van Cleve in BP Oil Disaster, Hunting and Fishing, Media Resources, Reports, RESTORE Act

Sportsmen and women want fines from 2010 gulf oil disaster used to restore critical coastal ecosystems.

This was originally posted on VanishingParadise.org.

A new national poll released yesterday shows that hunters and anglers prioritize protecting the gulf ecosystem and using fines paid by BP and other parties responsible for the 2010 Gulf oil disaster to be used for gulf restoration. The poll conducted by Chesapeake Beach Consulting shows threats to America’s conservation heritage are priority issues for sportsmen and women, on par with gun rights.

An overwhelming 81 percent of sportsmen polled strongly believe BP should be held accountable and fined the maximum amount allowed for the 2010 gulf oil disaster.

Click the image to like and share it on Facebook.

The poll’s results further support the RESTORE Act, an important piece of bipartisan, bicameral legislation passed earlier this year that dedicates 80 percent of the Clean Water Act fines collected from BP and other responsible parties to restoring the Gulf Coast.

“America’s sportsmen and women understand the importance the entire Gulf Coast has for our nation’s hunting and fishing heritage,” said Land Tawney, National Wildlife Federation’s senior manager for sportsmen leadership. “From the 10 million migratory waterfowl that use the marshes around the Mississippi River Delta for wintering grounds to the extremely important fisheries of the gulf, this is a region that matters to the entire nation.”

The gulf ecosystem suffered from rapid decline before the oil spill, which only exacerbated existing land loss issues, especially around the Mississippi River Delta. Although much of the visible oil is gone, some of the tar balls and tar mats stirred up by last month’s Hurricane Isaac were identified as remnants from the 2010 gulf spill. The region remains in jeopardy as food supplies and habitats are still recovering from the impacts of oil — and may face impacts from the spill for decades.

“Restoring the gulf is crucial to the safekeeping of our American conservation traditions,” Tawney continued. “This poll ultimately validates what so many individuals, organizations and businesses have been calling for since the summer of 2010 — that the gulf’s fish and wildlife habitats must be made whole and preserved for our future generations’ use and enjoyment.”

Read the poll memo and slide deck at nwf.org/sportsmen and get more National Wildlife Federation news at nwf.org/news.

Poll background:

This national public opinion poll conducted among 800 self-identified hunters and anglers was conducted by Chesapeake Beach Consulting from August 27 through September 1, 2012 for the National Wildlife Federation. The sample for this survey was randomly drawn from a list of self-identified hunters and anglers. To qualify, a respondent must have indicated they were a hunter, an angler or both, as well as a registered voter. All interviews were conducted by telephone, including 15 percent of the interviews by cell phone. The margin of error for this study is plus or minus 3.2 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.

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Video: Two sides of the river

July 18, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, BP Oil Disaster, Hunting and Fishing, RESTORE Act, Wildlife

This was originally posted by Vanishing Paradise.

By Chris Macaluso, Louisiana Wildlife Federation

When you invite staff from two of the most prominent outdoors publications in the country to experience south Louisiana’s tremendous fishing, you cross your fingers that the weather will allow you to show off everything the Mississippi River Delta has to offer.

Unfortunately, when the staff from Field & Stream and Outdoor Life magazines came to Buras, La., they were greeted by a stiff 20-25 knot wind fanned by Tropical Storm Debby.

Despite tides three feet above normal and white-capped waves in normally calm inland ponds, the intrepid guides at Cajun Fishing Adventures were able to improvise and put our guests on some fish.

On the first day, ten boats carrying the writers, photographers and Vanishing Paradise staff concentrated their fishing on the east side of the river. After bucking and bouncing through three-foot waves in the Mississippi River, the boats meandered through a maze of crevasses, cuts and sloughs that help spread the life-giving water and sediment from the river into the wetlands between the Mississippi River and Breton Sound.

The marshes on this side of the river are the true representation of Sportsmen’s Paradise. Mottled and wood ducks, roseate spoonbills, herons and ibises all took to the sky as boats passed while large alligators and otters slid from grassy banks into the water to escape the oncoming vessels. Lush, seed-bearing vegetation lined every bayou, canal and bay. Submerged grass mats lined the banks, filtering the sediment and harboring schools of forage fish like mullet and menhaden as well as the predators like redfish, largemouth bass and flounder. Those grasses are also food for millions of migrating ducks and geese when they come to Louisiana’s coast each fall and winter.

Redfish chased the minnows and crabs dislodged by the rising tides into marsh waters less than two feet deep. Berkley Gulp jerk shads on light jig heads and spinnerbaits tossed into narrow pockets and worked tight along grass beds produced 15 beautiful redfish, a couple bass and a handful of flounder for my boat. Others boats fished cuts in the main river channel for reds and even a couple hard-fighting striped bass.

The next day, we experienced the contrast between Buras’ east and west sides. On the west side of the river, levees have cut off all the natural cuts and crevasses that connect the river to its wetlands. Consequently, the marsh on the west side is vanishing faster than any other landmass in the world. Three decades ago these wetlands stretched more than 10 miles into the Gulf of Mexico. Now the area is home to wide expanses of featureless, open water and is largely void of fish and waterfowl habitat.

But when the conditions line up just right, the fishing can still be incredible, as we soon discovered. Our four-man crew landed more than 50 speckled trout and redfish in a four-hour stretch, but even these fish are dependent on healthy marsh and wetlands existing somewhere.

If we don’t take action soon, we could lose much of the marsh we still have. The Louisiana Legislature recently unanimously approved a comprehensive plan to restore the wetlands and create stronger hurricane protections, while the recent passage of the RESTORE Act should give us funds to get started making this plan a reality.

Last week, Field & Stream and Outdoor Life magazines posted articles online about their experiences on the delta, including, "Louisiana Delta: The Biggest Habitat Catastrophe You’ve Never Heard Of." Meanwhile Field & Stream writes that “It was the hard work and relentless advocacy of sportsmen” that made the ‪RESTORE Act‬ a reality.

We need sportsmen across America to join us as we fight to reconnect the river to the wetlands and restore this great national treasure. We’re delighted to see two of America’s most influential outdoors magazines spreading the word.

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Bassmaster Classic returns to the Mississippi River Delta

February 24, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Hunting and Fishing, Meetings/Events, Videos

This story was originally posted the Vanishing Paradise blog.

By Lacey McCormick, National Wildlife Federation

The Mississippi River Delta is one of the best places on earth to catch monster largemouth bass. If America’s anglers didn’t know that before, they certainly discovered it last year when Kevin van Dam shattered the previous Bassmaster Classic stringer record at the 2011 Bassmaster Classic.

B.A.S.S. CEO Bruce Akin

Last night, the Vanishing Paradise team was honored to have the opportunity to make a presentation to executives at B.A.S.S. and the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation conservation directors about the work we are doing to rally hunters and anglers nationwide to support restoration of the Mississippi River Delta. We were particularly delighted when B.A.S.S. CEO Bruce Akin got up before our talk and discussed the importance of restoring the delta and supporting organizations like Vanishing Paradise.

Anglers who know the region intuitively grasp the need for restoration. As Kevin van Dam said before last year’s Classic:

“The first time I fished [the delta] was in the late 1990s and I was blown away by the quality of the fisheries. I’ve fished here a half a dozen times since then. … Each time, I’m just stunned at the changes. Areas that used to be marsh are now just open bay.”

Bassmaster competitor Mike Iaconelli

Vanishing Paradise wants to thank Van Dam as well as the other Bassmaster competitors who have signed our letter to Congress, including Mike Iaconelli, Skeet Reese, Stephen Browning, Cliff Pace, Greg Hackney, Brent Chapman, Edwin Evers, Todd Faircloth, Mark Davis and Terry Butcher.

Mike Iaconelli is one angler who knows the delta well — he won the 2003 Bassmaster Classic there, after all — and he is a strong and vocal supporter of coastal restoration:

“If you hunt, if you fish, if you just love the outdoors, it’s important to step up and care about this problem. The thing is we’ve got a way to fix it, we’ve got a solution. … We’ve got the Mississippi River, which is one of the main things we can use to bring the marsh back.”

Seven-time Bassmaster Classic competitor Stephen Browning agrees, saying anglers everywhere can play a role in speaking up for the delta:

“We can spread the message to the rest of the country, to our congressmen and senators. Hopefully the right person’s eyes will be opened, and we can get something started.

Watch Kevin Van Dam, Mike Iaconelli and Stephen Browning discuss the need to restore the delta:

Restoration Wins Big at 2011 Bassmaster Classic

The 2012 Bassmaster Classic starts today and continues through Sunday (Feb. 24-26).

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Voices of the Delta: Captain Troy Frady

| Posted by Kevin Chandler in BP Oil Disaster, Clean Water Act, Hunting and Fishing, RESTORE Act, Voices of the Delta

Next in our Voices of the Delta series, you will meet Captain Troy Frady: Alabama native, owner of Distraction Charters in Orange Beach, Ala. and Gulf Coast restoration advocate.

Name: Captain Troy Frady

Occupation: Owner/Operator at Distraction Charters in Orange Beach, Alabama

What does the Gulf Coast mean to you?
My earliest memories of coastal Alabama date back to the early 1970s. There were not many people on the water back then around Orange Beach, Fort Morgan and Dauphin Island. The fish were abundant and our estuaries were teeming with life. Over the past 40 years, I have seen things change from what I remember as a child. I have seen our coastal wetlands drained or filled, environmental pollution, overfishing of our marine resources, and residential and commercial development. All have contributed to the decline of what was once a pristine coastal environment.

After 21 years of working in the corporate world of banking and logistics, I decided to fulfill a childhood dream of making my living on the water. I took off my tie and hung up my coat and purchased a 41’ Hatteras and began charter fishing in 2002.

After entering the charter fishing fleet, I noticed that there were a lot of anglers who were overharvesting reef fish simply because they could. I wanted to be different and develop my niche. I began educating my customers about conservation and why it is important to release some of your catch. I had already seen what overfishing had done to the resources since childhood, so I decided to be part of the solution instead of being part of the problem. I began marketing “Keep the Best, Release the Rest,” to help manage fish populations.

The effects of the BP oil spill have complicated our fishery rebuilding process. It may be years before we know the full effects of what the oil and dispersants did to our reef fishery and the deep water marine ecosystem.

Why is it important to move quickly to restore all coastal wetlands and estuaries?
Over the years, our pristine coastal areas have been depleted and are in jeopardy of being gone for good. With natural events like hurricanes and manmade events like the BP oil spill, it is extremely important that we all do our part and build buffers around and restore our marine resources. The lessons I have learned in 40 years are valuable, and I don’t want to see future generations witness what we had a chance to correct.

How does the RESTORE Act fit into this process?
For the first time in our nation’s history, we have an opportunity to divert Clean Water Act fines, without using taxpayer dollars, toward projects that will protect our estuaries and marine resources from natural or manmade disasters. The RESTORE Act gives hope to all of us who make our living by educating and being good stewards of such a great national resource. It may be years before we know the full effects of what the BP oil spill did to our marine environment. Only through a robust research and monitoring program will we be able to detect delayed or subtle impacts, track the recovery of the injured species and implement appropriate restoration strategies.

One thing’s for sure — the seafood industry and recreational fishing are pillars of our coastal economy. Neither can prosper without the natural resources that support them. In the gulf, environmental restoration is vital to economic restoration. What we do today will have an effect on what happens tomorrow. Your children and grandchildren will love you more because of it. Restoration is the right thing to do.

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Voices of the Delta: Keith Blomstrom

February 14, 2012 | Posted by Kevin Chandler in BP Oil Disaster, Hunting and Fishing, Hurricane Katrina, RESTORE Act, Voices of the Delta

"The Minnesota state bird, the Common Loon, spends two to three years maturing in the gulf. To Minnesotans, this bird represents wilderness, and it also links us to the Mississippi River Delta." - Keith Blomstrom

This is the second post of our Voices of the Delta series.

Name: Keith Blomstrom

Occupation: President of the Minnesota Conservation Federation

Why are the Mississippi River Delta and Gulf Coast important to Minnesota?
Minnesota is linked to the gulf in many ways. The Mississippi River starts in Minnesota — its headwaters are located in Itasca State Park, near Bemidji, Minn. — so the river itself means a great deal to us. Some of the beneficial sediment that travels to the delta comes from Minnesota, but at the same time, our farms and cities are responsible for pollution traveling downriver as well. As an acknowledgment of our commitment to the river, the state of Minnesota and the Environmental Protection Agency have recently partnered with farmers and others to clean up water draining into the gulf.

Additionally, our waterfowl winter in the gulf — all total, 75 percent of our continent’s waterfowl pass through the region. The Minnesota state bird, the Common Loon, spends two to three years maturing in the gulf. To Minnesotans, this bird represents wilderness, and it also links us to the Mississippi River Delta.

What does the RESTORE Act mean to you personally?
After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, I visited a fish camp owned by some friends in Montegut, La., and I saw firsthand the devastation and problems caused by the loss of wetlands. The place we stayed was on 10-foot poles. During the storms, the tidal surge there was 8 feet. Anything that wasn’t higher than that was destroyed. We were 6 miles from the gulf, but the canal was still full of saltwater with bull sharks, stingrays and other saltwater creatures swimming everywhere.

The oil spill further devastated the area, killing the plants that hold together the soil, killing wildlife and hurting the fishing industry. It will take many years for the ecosystem to recover. But with the RESTORE Act, we have the chance to make a down payment on restoration, to help build a better future for the Gulf Coast and for our country.

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Voices of the Delta: Chris Macaluso

February 9, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Hunting and Fishing, People, RESTORE Act, Voices of the Delta

"I have spent my life fishing and hunting in the rich marshes, barrier islands and swamps along Louisiana’s coast." - Chris Macaluso

This is the first in our “Voices of the Delta” blog series, where we’ll be interviewing coastal Louisiana restoration advocates from across the country. From Louisiana to Florida to Minnesota, these spokesmen and women have come to Washington to tell Congress that the Mississippi River Delta is a vital natural resource and that we need to pass the RESTORE Act now and send oil spill fines back to the Gulf States that deserve them. Check back over the coming days to read more of their stories!

Name: Chris Macaluso

Occupation: Coastal Outreach Coordinator, Louisiana Wildlife Federation

What does coastal Louisiana mean to you?
I have spent my life fishing and hunting in the rich marshes, barrier islands and swamps along Louisiana’s coast. My earliest memories of fishing with my dad are filled with images of vast areas of marsh grasses, scattered coastal ponds and bayous teeming with fish and waterfowl. Endless meadows of golden marsh grass stretched through the wetlands in some of our favorite fishing destinations, like Buras, Grand Isle, Cocodrie and Dulac.

Yet in the 30 years since those first memories were made, most of that habitat has washed away, leaving behind vast areas of open water. Mississippi River levees built to protect communities from river flooding have separated the marshes from their essential sediment and freshwater source. These levees have also made those same communities fatally vulnerable to storm surges from the Gulf of Mexico. Jetties and dredging meant to keep the river open for navigation have directed the land-building sediment into the gulf’s deep waters, and manmade navigation channels have carved up swamps and marshes, allowing saltwater to penetrate as much as 40 miles inland.

Chris Macaluso, Louisiana Wildlife Federation

Why is it important that we move quickly to restore the Mississippi River Delta?
Simply put, my coast is dying. Louisiana’s coast is losing land at the fastest rate in the world, with more than 1,900 square miles washing away in the last 80 years. There is the possibility of almost that much more vanishing in the next 50 years unless projects are soon built to curb and hopefully reverse that loss.

Many of those projects have already been approved by Congress. A host of freshwater and sediment diversions as well as marsh and barrier island restoration projects meant to fix Louisiana have been listed in federal Water Resources Development Acts over the last 40 years. The state of Louisiana recently released a draft of a comprehensive coastal restoration and hurricane protection plan that optimistically demonstrates coastal land loss can turn into land gains if those projects are implemented.

Sadly though, most of the approved projects languish in wait for funding while tied up in lengthy federal bureaucracies.

Where does the RESTORE Act fit in this process?
The RESTORE Act is an absolutely essential piece of legislation for my home state of Louisiana. If we are to have any hope of making significant headway in reversing the devastating coastal land loss that has plagued the state for nearly a century, Congress must pass this bill.

Passage of the RESTORE Act can provide the money needed to move some projects to construction while helping Louisiana address the environmental damage caused by the devastating oil spill of 2010. More than that, it can give hope that the wetland loss threatening to completely wipe out one of the world’s great hunting and fishing destinations — and the communities and culture that go with it — can be reversed and that Louisiana’s coastal habitats can be sustained for generations to come.

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