Update on October 4, 2018: Agreement to Develop Airport at Elmer’s Island Wildlife Refuge Has Been Rescinded!
Louisiana Wildlife Federation (LWF) is pleased that the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) and the Grand Isle Independent Levee District have mutually decided to rescind the Intergovermental Agreement to develop an airport on Elmer’s Island Wildlife Refuge.
After several organizations raised concerns with members of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission, the issue was added to their October 4, 2018 meeting in Baton Rouge. LDWF Secretary Jack Montoucet addressed the Commission and the public with the news that a decision was made by all parties to revoke the agreement. LWF appreciates the Commission’s sense of urgency in having this matter brought before the Commission in an open forum to allow for public comment and Secretary Montoucet and Grand Isle Mayor David Camardelle for responding to the many concerns expressed. This decision is in the best interest of the public and the Refuge.
Elmer’s Island is vital habitat for a variety of wildlife, including several species that are listed as Federally Threatened or Endangered. The Refuge is used by nesting shorebirds and serves as a key stopover point for many species of migratory birds. LWF urges people to turn their attention to improving recreational access to Elmer’s Island in ways that do not negatively impact wildlife and the environment. Expected funding from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that would help meet the goals outlined in the Elmer’s Island Wildlife Refuge Management Plan offers an opportunity to enhance the Refuge for wildlife and people.
Posted October 3, 2018: LWF is encouraging public comments to the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission at their meeting scheduled for October 4, 2018.
The Louisiana Wildlife Federation (LWF) is opposed to re-establishing an airport at Elmer’s Island Wildlife Refuge. An Intergovernmental Agreement signed by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission gave Grand Isle Independent Levee District a lease to operate and manage what is described in the document as the Grand Isle Airport on Elmer’s Island Wildlife Refuge property.
LWF is glad to see the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission has added this discussion to its October 4 meeting so the public can hear an explanation of how the airport and its lease agreement have been reviewed and approved without previous public notice.
Additionally, LWF is calling for an immediate halt to any activities in the Refuge that support development of an airport until a public hearing has been held to address concerns about the signed agreement and the compatibility of an airport with the purposes of the Refuge.
“LWF will be raising our members’ and affiliates’ grave concerns about re-establishing the air strip and developing an airport at Elmer’s Island,” said LWF Executive Director Rebecca Triche. “Asking the public to wait to comment during the permit application process is not acceptable for a project like this.”
The construction necessary to establish the Grand Isle Airport at Elmer’s Island Wildlife Refuge would reduce and degrade habitat of this unique and valuable wildlife area. Additionally, LWF believes that noise and disturbances from airplane and helicopter traffic, along with aircraft support activities, will diminish the recreational enjoyment of the Refuge as a whole.
According to the “Elmer’s Island Wildlife Management Plan,” the majority of Elmer’s Island Wildlife Refuge is composed of beach/coastal dune grasslands and salt marsh habitats. More than 170 species of birds are believed to utilize Elmer’s Island and the surrounding beach and marsh during some point in their life cycle; almost 40 of these species are listed as bird species of conservation concern in Louisiana. Elmer’s Island is listed as critical habitat for the piping plover.
Elmer’s Island is a stopover point for migratory birds and provides habitat for nesting shorebirds. It provides habitat for Federally Listed Threatened and Endangered Species that include Red knot, Threatened Piping plover, Threatened Loggerhead sea turtle, Threatened Green sea turtle, Threatened Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, Endangered Leatherback sea turtle, and Endangered Hawksbill sea turtle.
To manage an airport for aircraft safety, a Wildlife Hazard Management Plan would be needed. The elements of such a plan would likely require elimination of wildlife and its habitat in the area that includes most, if not all, of the Refuge.
Elmer’s Island Wildlife Refuge is popular for surf fishing, bank fishing, swimming, sunbathing, kayaking and bird watching. All of this would be made less enjoyable by airplane traffic in the area.
The Louisiana Wildlife Federation is a statewide conservation education and advocacy organization with more than 7,000 members and 22 affiliate groups. Established in 1940, it is affiliated with the National Wildlife Federation and represents a broad constituency of conservationists including hunters, anglers, campers, birders, paddlers and other outdoor enthusiasts. www.LaWildlifeFed.org.
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