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Sportsmen respond to Katrina

9/19/2005

  • Editor's note: Be sure to tune in to re-airs of the Hurricane Katrina
    aftermath special
    on ESPN2's "BassCenter" at 5 a.m. ET this Monday
    through Thursday, Sept. 19-22.

  • Contact the Red Cross to contribute to Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.


    "A war zone," "hell," and "like 9-11," are terms first-hand observers are using to describe what Katrina has done to Louisiana, whose license plates bear the motto, "Sportsman's Paradise," and coastal regions of Alabama, Mississippi and the Florida panhandle.

    TV is focusing on urban areas. The impacts on rural areas and wildlife are just beginning to be fathomed.

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has closed 16 national wildlife refuges in the area. One example of Katrina's wrath: the Breton National Wildlife Refuge is half is former size as the Chandeleur Islands, a sport-fishing paradise and nesting grounds for many species of birds 40 miles off the coast of Louisiana are gone. Yes, completely gone.

    According to Jeff Fleming in the SE Regional Office, damage to USFWS facilities in the area is initially estimated at $94 million.

    There already was a gradual loss of about 23 square miles of wetlands a year along the Gulf coast. This storm has accelerated it. Those original wetlands would have helped protect inland areas from the tidal swell and waves.

    Damage to wildlife populations must be viewed in the short-term and long-term. Common nesting birds, sea turtles, and alligators have been hurt, but these and other native species have endured storms for millennia. Nature is resilient. It will come back in time.

    But in the short run, in addition to the annihilation of duck clubs, resorts, and deer camps, the pounding wind and waves and the initial "toxic slug" from damaged sewage treatment plants, chemical spills and runoff have severely damaged spawning areas for fish and crustaceans and wintering areas for waterfowl. Scientists harvested fish off the Mississippi coast as part of the latest effort to assess environmental damage. Some biologists fear large-scale poisonings when the fall waterfowl migrations arrive.

    The Financial Times reports that ruptured oil storage tanks have dumped as much as 3.7 million gallons of crude into the lower Mississippi river and surrounding wetlands. Such a spill is roughly a third of the volume of the tanker Exxon Valdez spill off Alaska in 1989.

    The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has posted a "consumption advisory" for fish and shellfish due to pollutants in runoff waters.

    Rising fuel costs and an underwater "dead zone" offshore, were already hampering the Gulf shrimp fishery, which provides 40 percent of the US's shrimp. Hurricane damage to boats, processing plants, breeding areas and pollution has virtually shut down the fishery. The loss is valued worth at least $1 billion.

    Eighty percent of the nation's oysters come from the Gulf area. As if pollution and siltation weren't bad enough, in the Florida panhandle there has been a significant movement of toxic red tide algae, which has resulted in fish kills and contamination of the oyster beds.

    Area Sportsmen need to be aware of public health problems associated with water contact. There have been a handful of human fatalities from Vibrio vulnificus, a form of cholera found in salt water, which fortunately is not spread from person to person.

    Mosquitoes breeding in the standing water will carry some West Nile virus.

    Gastrointestinal maladies and skin rashes are common. A host of other infectious diseases like typhus or cholera could break out. People should not let the water make contact any open cuts, sores or abrasions, and thoroughly clean off everything that comes in contact with the water.

    The CDC recommends that anyone traveling to the Gulf Coast area should get inoculated against tetanus, diphtheria and hepatitis B.

    Agencies responding

    In addition to securing 150 of its own personnel, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has rescued hundreds of citizens in coastal Louisiana and Mississippi. The agency continues to clear miles of roadways, support local police and fire department officials, establish emergency corridors to speed the delivery of relief aid, open access to the Louisiana Heart Hospital, and provide critical help to Red Cross relief workers.

    The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks has airboats, motor boats, four-wheel trucks, tanker trucks and teams of officers on rotating shifts in the area.

    The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has a hotline for help and helpers.

    Alabama's "Thin green line" of game wardens and other resource management personnel are equally engage in saving human lives, clearing roads, search and rescue, and law enforcement.

    Check the websites of the various state and federal resource management agencies for updates. Their phones, if working, are very busy.

    Sportsmen's groups pitch in

    Sportsmen's groups are making major contributions to pumping aid into the region. Just a few:

  • National Wild Turkey Foundation — The NWTF, along with its state and local chapters, have already contributed more than $50,000. Chad Bowen, NWTF regional director and a resident of Mansfield, La., has been driving supply trucks for the Louisiana Hospital Association, fixing hospital machinery and calling loved ones for survivors across the country.

  • Safari Club International — In addition to over $25,000 in donations, the SCI Foundation has launched the Hurricane Katrina Sportsmen-women Relief Fund to help the law enforcement divisions of the various state fish and game departments involved purchase much-needed fuel and drinkable water.

  • Dallas Safari Club — Gray Thornton, executive director, reports they are working with area charities to collect and distribute school supplies for displaced kids, and raising money to go to The Salvation Army.

  • Conservation Force — One hunters' organization that has been hard-hit by Katrina is internationally focused, Conservation Force.

    CEO John Jackson III and his wife, Chrissy, report of returning to their home and the Conservation Force office in Metairie, La., on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain: "The drive in took eight hours. Every structure is damaged. It's like a war zone."

    The Jackson's home, filled with a lifetime of trophies and decades of priceless legal documents about wildlife and hunting around the globe were destroyed. John says: "The Conservation Force office windows on the 10th floor were intact. The building is a twisted wreck, however."

    Contributions to rebuild Conservation Force can be sent c/o 300 Main St., Natchez, MS 39121.

    The sporting industry steps in

    The sporting industry is rolling up its sleeves to help. Just a few examples:

  • Lacrosse Footwear — The company has donated 650 pairs of rubber boots to police relief agencies of the region.

  • Cabela's — Spokesman Joe Arterburn was loading a truck with relief supplies for Gonazales, La., where Cabela's still plans to build a store, when I called. The mayor of Gonzalez asked them to send clean clothing to the New Orleans firefighters who are on duty despite being homeless and often out of contact with their families.

    Cabela's also has a company-wide fund-raising effort for the American Red Cross and some of retail stores are outfitting firefighters, EMS and rescue personnel heading to the stricken areas.

  • Bass Pro Shops — Spokesman Larry Whitely reports that BPS has donated two semi truck loads of bottled water, tents, bag chairs, clothing, boots, batteries and more to Convoy of Hope relief efforts. (Convoy of Hope is a Christian-based relief organization based out of Springfield, MO)

    BPS is collecting donations for Convoy of Hope efforts at all checkout areas in all 27 stores across the country.

    Coping

    The area will heal, but it will take time.

    This fall's waterfowl and other hunting seasons for the coastal region are doubtful. If you know sportsmen and women living in that region, invite them to visit and come hunting and fishing with you.

    It helps to have something positive to think about in times like these. Katrina knocked down the population of pesky nutria that have been chewing up wetlands.

    And, Stan Kirkland from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission says that following a big storm, grouper and snapper move closer to shore, and consequently the fishing for these species gets better.

    Preparedness

    To learn more about how to prepare your family for such a disaster in your area, study the Web site for the Center for Disease Control.

    Note: Be careful about who you give money to. Some people have set up scam charities.

    James Swan — who has appeared in more than a dozen feature films, including "Murder in the First" and "Star Trek: First Contact," as well as the television series "Nash Bridges," "Midnight Caller" and "Modern Marvels" — is the author of the book "In Defense of Hunting." Click to purchase a copy. To learn more about Swan, visit his Web site.

  • Contact the Red Cross to contribute to Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

  • Editor's note: Be sure to tune in to re-airs of the Hurricane Katrina
    aftermath special
    on ESPN2's "BassCenter" at 5 a.m. ET this Monday
    through Thursday, Sept. 19-22.

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