RESTORE Council: Fix River Delta to Boost Ducks

Some estimates indicate that as many as 70-percent of Mississippi and Central Flyway waterfowl winter in marshes dependent upon the Mississippi River Delta. Unfortunately the delta ecosystem is also one of the country's most threatened habitats.

Some estimates indicate that as many as 70-percent of Mississippi and Central Flyway waterfowl winter in marshes dependent upon the Mississippi River Delta. Unfortunately the delta ecosystem is also one of the country's most threatened habitats—we're losing up to a football field per hour, according to Vanishing Paradise, a joint venture by Ducks Unlimited and the National Wildlife Federation supported by more than 700 hunting and fishing organizations.

The Mississippi River has long been dammed, of course, to benefit people living nearby, but this blocks the river's natural ability to replenish wetland marshes and the Gulf Coast with sediment-rich water.

I provide this background because the RESTORE Council—led by the five governors of states affected by the BP oil spill—this week released its "Initial Comprehensive Plan: Restoring the Gulf Coast’s Ecosystem and Economy." The plan calls for a host coastal restoration measures, including some that would directly improve habitat quality of the Mississippi Delta. Next steps for the council include prioritizing such projects.

So, Vanishing Paradise is calling on the council to give the delta the attention it deserves.

"The Mississippi River Delta restoration projects in the Coastal Master Plan will create an important cornerstone for Gulf-wide ecosystem restoration," the group said in a statement. "Since sportsmen and women generate $70 billion a year in revenue and job creation, truly restoring the delta will be a critical component to successfully restore the entire Gulf region—both ecologically and economically. ... A vibrant Gulf of Mexico starts with a strong Mississippi River Delta.”

Will the council heed this call? Thirty million waterfowl hope so.

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