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'Restore Miss. Delta Now'

Vanishing Paradise's letter to Congress asks spill funds aid habitat

By: Special to OutdoorChannel.com

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A group of more than 600 hunting, fishing and outdoor sporting businesses and organizations are sending a letter to Congress today with a clear message—restore the Mississippi River Delta, a vast complex of wildlife habitat that has faced high rates of landloss and suffered further degradation after the 2010 Gulf oil spill.

The letter was authored by Vanishing Paradise, a project of National Wildlife Federation (NWF) to unite sportsmen and women to restore Louisiana’s waterfowl and fishing habitats by reconnecting the Mississippi River with its wetlands. The letter asks Congress to secure significant investments for coastal restoration over the next five years, establish a new, dedicated funding stream for delta restoration and create a comprehensive restoration plan overseen by federal and state representatives with authority to implement the plan.

“In the spirit of Ding Darling, more than 650 hunting and fishing organizations and businesses from across the country have come together to advocate for the restoration of the Mississippi River Delta,” Land Tawney, NWF’s senior manager for sportsmen leadership, said. “This collaboration ranges from local rod and gun clubs and mom and pop bait shops, to household names of national fishing and hunting manufacturers and sporting conservation organizations. We at Vanishing Paradise are truly humbled by the outpouring of nationwide support. Now it is time for Congress to take action and make the Gulf whole.”

The letter’s release was announced today, as outdoor equipment CEO’s and other representatives from the outdoor communities convened in the nation’s capital to urge members of Congress to move forward on the RESTORE Gulf Coast Act, a  bipartisan piece of legislation that ensures fines from last year’s oil spill are used to help restore the Gulf ecosystem.

“The delta has suffered years of damage and is being lost at an alarming rate—a football field of land disappears every hour,” Tawney said. “The oil spill added insult to injury for this area and the entire Gulf region. Now is the time for Congress to act to restore this national treasure, important to sportsmen and women from all corners of the nation.”

A bipartisan poll this spring showed that 83 percent of voters nationwide support—and 69 percent strongly support—dedicating the Gulf oil spill penalties to restoring the Mississippi River Delta and Gulf Coast. The poll also showed that an overwhelming majority of conservative voters favor this proposal, including 76 percent of Republicans, and 78 percent of voters who agree with the Tea Party movement.

Nearly 500 miles—almost half—of the coastline in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida that was contaminated by the Gulf oil spill remain oiled one year later, according to the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration.

“Restoring the Gulf and the Mississippi River Delta is an important issue for all sportsmen,” Mike Iaconelli, 2003 Bassmaster Classic champion, said. “Those of us who hunt or fish need to step up and show we care about this issue. The disappearing Mississippi River Delta is not a problem we can’t fix, and Congress has a chance to do what’s right for the Gulf Coast. Now is the time for them to take action.”

“Recreational fishing contributes $41 billion dollars in economic output in the Gulf Coast region annually and supports more than 300,000 jobs. This economic engine will sputter if critical fisheries habitat is not better conserved and managed in the Gulf,” Gordon Robertson, vice president of the American Sportfishing Association, said. “We urge Congress to act now to provide a much needed investment in business recovery and fisheries resources for the region.”

“Generations of Louisiana hunters and fishermen have enjoyed the rare bounty that Louisiana has offered from its rich estuary,” said Capt. Ryan Lambert, owner of Cajun Fishing Adventures, a fishing and waterfowl hunting lodge and guide service located near the mouth of the Mississippi River near Venice, La. “Every old timer has stories to tell of great times spent outdoors back in the day. Those great times are at the brink of being no more. Coastal erosion and saltwater intrusion have attacked our great state for 100 years, costing us 1883 square miles of precious wetlands thus far. Saltwater has intruded inland up to 80 miles killing even more freshwater marshes. If you want to pass on our great way of life to your grandchildren, the time to get involved is now.

“All sportsmen in Louisiana need to get behind the restore act. Please take the time to call your Senators for support of the RESTORE ACT. Better yet please get everyone you know outside of the state to call their legislatures. The Mississippi River built Louisiana and it is the only thing that can save our wetlands.”

Mike Galloway, vice president of sales and marketing at Hard Core Brands International, said, “The Mississippi River Delta provides one of the most significant wintering habitats for waterfowl in North American and plays a starring role in our country’s rich waterfowl tradition. Hunting and fishing are also vital revenue streams for the nation’s economy. By passing the RESTORE Act and investing oil spill fines into restoring coastal wetlands, Congress is also investing in our national economy.”

“The comprehensive effects of the oil spill remain to be seen,” Tawney said. “Oil seeped into marshes and wetlands that support many species of fish, waterfowl and other wildlife. We need Congress to act now to ensure that the penalties from the oil spill go toward making the delta and the Gulf region whole again, by restoring one of the most significant wintering areas for waterfowl in North America and an area that provides us with commercial and recreational fishing opportunities unlike any other.”

For more information, please visit www.vanishingparadise.org.

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