Oil spill closing in on Breton Island National Wildlife Refuge

Boom and pompoms on Breton Island. Courtesy NRDC.

As the Gulf of Mexico oil spill escalates, it is churning closer and closer to Breton Island National Wildlife Refuge, the second-oldest national wildlife refuge in the United States. All of the federal lands in the refuge are also designated wilderness areas, aside from North Breton Island.

There are reports confirming that oil has already washed ashore the Chandeleur Islands that make-up part of the Breton Island National Wildlife Refuge and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has closed the refuge to facilitate oil clean-up.

“It is not a question of whether all these species will be affected now. It is when.”

- Larry Schweiger, National Wildlife Federation President

The refuge, created by President Theodore Roosevelt, serves as a home for endangered and threatened species.

In The Guardian, Douglas Brinkley for Yale Environment 360 illustrated all that the refuge protects: 2,000 nesting pairs of brown pelicans, 5,000 pairs of royal terns, 5,000 pairs of Caspian terns, and 5,000 pairs of various seagulls and shorebirds. Most of the refuge was designated as a wilderness in 1975.

As oil comes onshore, the impact on wildlife is bound to be devastating. In the New York Times article “Concerns Up and Down the Food Chain,” Larry Schweiger, President of the National Wildlife Federation said, “It is not a question of whether all these species will be affected now. It is when.”

Breton Island National Wildlife Refuge is no stranger to environmental destruction: In 2005, it was hit first by a “small but deadly” oil spill of roughly 560 gallons in June, followed by Hurricane Katrina in August. But now, as Douglas Brinkley writes, “…perhaps the biggest threat ever is drifting toward Breton Island and its neighbors, endangering one of Teddy Roosevelt's finest conservation legacies.”

 

photo: Boom and pompoms on Breton Island. Courtesy NRDC.

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