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HSUS Scientists Arrive in Louisiana

HSUS experts gather in New Orleans for Gulf Coast visit

The Humane Society of the United States


    Jim Reed, a director with the Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust, surveys the Louisiana coastline from the air.

by Laura Bevan

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The HSUS Oil Spill Assessment Team gathered for the first time last night in New Orleans to go over the plans for the next few days and lay down the ground rules for how the assessment will be conducted.

As the dark oil crawls its way across the blue-green waters of the Gulf of Mexico (and heads for my own beautiful coastal stomping grounds in the Florida Panhandle), there is both an eagerness to get to the task and see the damage first hand, but also the awareness that damage has been done and is continuing to be done to this major ecosystem.

The team members are some of the top names in their fields of study of ocean systems, coastal habitats, and wildlife of all shapes and sizes. It is impressive to listen to their depth of knowledge and hear how the issues are interrelated. The more they talk, the more I realize how large the task is that we are undertaking.

Over the next few days, the HSUS team will tour by helicopter and boat the coastal areas surrounding Louisiana. During that time we will gather as much information as possible, understanding that there will be much more that we won’t be able to see in our time here. So much of what is happening in this man-made disaster is under the water or deep in the Louisiana marshes. Those marshes reach hundreds of fingers out into the Gulf, with a coastline that is the equivalent of 7,000 miles! That fact alone is shocking, but when you consider the depth and breadth of the Gulf of Mexico, the magnitude of our effort is sobering.

During our visit here, team members will gather information, assess impacts, and determine which questions still need to be asked and answered by those in charge. Our goal is to be honest, objective, and productive: to be part of developing plans and proposing solutions. In the end, that is the only way to save our Gulf of Mexico, its coast and all the creatures big and small, winged or finned, that depend on it.

Laura Bevan is director of the eastern regional office for The HSUS. She has been with the organization since 1987 and is known for her extensive experience in working natural disasters, starting with Hurricane Andrew in 1992. She has responded and helped direct animal relief efforts in numerous hurricanes, wildfires and floods.

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