Hoping to raise the nation's -- and politicians' -- awareness of the rich resources in the Gulf of Mexico, two environmental groups Wednesday released a list of 15 state and federal properties that could be fouled by oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
The list compiled by the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization and the Natural Resources Defense Fund wasn't necessarily intended to highlight all of the landscapes most at risk, but rather to "include the best examples of the full range of both the protected coastal public areas and the resources within them that are vulnerable to contamination by the BP disaster."
"Because the potential reach of this catastrophe is so broad, our list certainly cannot include more than a tiny fraction of what is at stake as oil continues to gush into and spread around the Gulf," the groups said. "But by highlighting some of these special places and what they protect, this report may shed some light on the amazing environment of the Gulf of Mexico that now threatened by the BP oil disaster."
The 15 places highlighted by the groups were:
1. Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, Texas
2. Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, Alabama
3. Breton National Wildlife Refuge, Louisiana
4. Delta National Wildlife Refuge, Louisiana
5. Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida
6. Everglades National Park, Florida
7. Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida
8. Grand Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi and Alabama
9. Gulf Islands National Seashore, Mississippi and Florida
10. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Florida
11. Key West National Wildlife Refuge, Florida
12. Padre Island National Seashore, Texas
13. Pass a Loutre Wildlife Management Area, Louisiana
14. Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge, Louisiana
15. St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Florida
As of Tuesday, the only national park unit reporting impacts believed to be tied to the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe was Gulf Islands National Seashore, where crews had found some tar balls and "reports of oiled wildlife." Dry Tortugas National Park had reported tar balls on Loggerhead and Garden keys, but analysis by the U.S. Coast Guard determined they were not associated with the Deepwater Horizon incident.
“This could become America’s greatest environmental disaster. Oil contamination from the explosion of BP’s drilling rig threatens precious natural resources and livelihoods across the Gulf of Mexico and beyond," said Theo Spencer, a senior advocate in the Natural Resources Defense Council's Climate Center. "By highlighting special places that belong to all Americans, this report sheds light on one stark aspect of the BP disaster: our country’s dangerous over-dependence on fossil fuels. That dependence threatens part of America’s “Best Idea”, some National Parks and other protected places with unique natural resources in a region of great natural value.”
In Florida, Julie Wraithmell, wildlife policy coordinator, Florida Audubon, said the flood of oil threatens not just the state's ecology, but it's economy.
“For Gulf Coast states, our coastal areas are our lifeblood, ecologically and economically. Blindingly white sand beaches where marine turtles and diminutive snowy plovers nest; vast seagrass meadows flush with redfish and trout; mangrove islands blanketed with nesting pelicans; vibrant coral reefs and cool, clear coastal springs; oyster bars and vast marshes, nurseries for the seafood that feeds a nation," she said. "These habitats were already under tremendous pressure when the Deepwater Horizon accident
brought oil to our shores. It is our job now to do all we can to protect and restore our coastal wealth, and find a way forward with renewable energy policies so that as Americans we can all tell our children, 'Never again,' and know we can keep our promise.”