The most productive ecosystem in the nation.

1. Culture
Over two million people live in Louisiana’s coastal zone, and the wetlands are an integral part of life for many residents. The wetlands provide the setting for the region’s primary economic activities, such as navigation and oil and gas production. In addition, the cultural impact of the ecosystem can be traced to traditions of music, food, and living off the land that continue to this day. Much of what gives Louisiana its unique heritage finds its roots in the coast.

2. Fisheries
Each year, Louisiana’s commercial and recreational fishing industries contribute $3.5 billion and over 40,000 jobs to the state’s economy. (Southwick Associates, 1997) Approximately 21% of the fish harvested by weight in the lower 48 states comes from Louisiana’s coastal zone. (USDOC, 2007) The annual economic impact of recreational fishing can amount to between $895 million and $1.2 billion. ((LDWF, 2005)

3. Habitat
Louisiana’s wetlands provide habitats for thousands of plant and animal species. The intrinsic value of these lands as a haven for wildlife is felt by all who visit, and as such, the wetlands represent a precious aspect of our nation’s natural heritage.  In addition, hiking, bird watching, photography, and camping in south Louisiana contribute more than $220 million annually to Louisiana’s economy. (Coreil, 1994)

4. Navigation
Louisiana’s coast is a national hub for navigation. Nearly 3,000 miles of deep and shallow-draft channels are located in the wetlands (Waldemar S. Nelson & Company, 2002). Five of the nation’s 15 largest ports are located in south Louisiana, and these facilities carry 18% of all waterborne commerce by tonnage in the United States each year. (USACE, 2007)

5. Oil & Gas
More than 80% of the nation’s offshore oil and gas is produced off Louisiana’s coast, and 25% of the nation’s foreign and domestic oil comes ashore on Louisiana roads and waterways. The coastal zone also contains the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port; over 43,000 oil and gas wells; two storage sites for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve; and the Henry Hub, one of the nation’s major natural gas distribution centers. Louisiana has 3,819 vendors and equipment suppliers in 165 different communities to service this array of infrastructure. These suppliers received an estimated $2.4 billion in oil and gas related business in 1992. (Waldemar S. Nelson & Company, 2002)

6. Storm Protection
Every 2.7 miles of wetlands may absorb an average of one foot of storm surge. (USACE, 1963) Louisiana’s wetlands thus create a natural buffer zone on which all of the infrastructure and communities located in the coastal zone depend. Using one estimate, the coast’s 2.5 million acres of wetlands have annual storm protection values of between $520 million and $2.2 billion. (Costanza, Farber, and Maxwell, 1989)

7. Water Quality & Agriculture
The Mississippi River Basin terminates in Louisiana’s coastal zone, bringing with it nutrient rich runoff from 31 states and two Canadian provinces. Today, levees channel most of this runoff into the Gulf of Mexico. Before the levees were built, however, Louisiana’s wetlands filtered many of these sediments and nutrients, converting them into biologically useful materials. This purification function has an estimated mean value of $325 per acre per year. (Waldemar S. Nelson & Company, 2002)

With more than four-million acres of wetlands, Louisiana represents the most diverse and productive ecosystem in the nation. A myriad of needs from fisheries and habitat to industry and culture rely on Louisiana wetlands. While similar ecosystems are endangered across the country, 80% of coastal land loss occurs in Louisiana—an average of 25,000 acres per year. Imagine losing the equivalent of one football field every hour?!

There are multiple causes for land loss. Nutria pose a significant threat. According to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the semi-aquatic mammals have gnawed through an estimated 80,000 acres of marshes since arriving seven decades ago. When Nutria eat marsh, they destroy the very infrastructure that holds wetlands together putting the entire ecosystem at risk.

So why do we need to protect wetlands from Nutria and other threats? Here are 7 big reasons.

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