I have never been to Pass a Loutre Wildlife Management Area at the mouth of the Mississippi River, but in doing the photography for The Mississippi: A Visual Biography, I did go to its next door neighbor, the Delta National Wildlife Refuge, a similar ecosystem.
A week before the Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig burned and sank into the Gulf of Mexico, I wrote about Pass a Loutre, using my experience at and images from the Delta NWR. I wrote it in response to Andy Nyman’s wonderful description at LaCoastPost of Pass a Loutre in the 1980s and of the changes to the landscape in the last 25 years. Yesterday, CNN had an image of oil that has washed into Pass a Loutre. Already the roseau cane is bent and broken.
On May 20, the New York Times has a story about the character of the oil creeping into Louisiana’s wetlands.
Pass a Loutre and the Delta NWR are the place where freshwater meets salt, the place where anglers come for bass and cats and other fish that thrive in the Mississippi’s freshwater environment, and for redfish and speckled trout, fish that swim in a salt water. Duck hunters come in the fall and winter for migrating waterfowl. Trappers come for furbearers, raccoon and mink. And they come to collect the state’s bounty on nutria–those critters which are feeding marsh plants, both fresh and salt and reducing Louisiana’s marshes to erodible mud.
Update: Finally, there is a web site, refugewatch.org, which has updates on the work the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is doing and how it is handling the oil that is or may wash into the 25 refuges in the five states that form the American shoreline of the Gulf of Mexico.
Update: NASA published a stunning image of the Bird Foot Delta, where streaks of silvery oil are fouling the red vegetation at the mouth of the Mississippi. The Times-Picayune has a discussion of the role of roseau cane in holding together the marshes at the mouth of the Mississippi and what could happen should oil smother the reed.