LWF Supports nomination of Chandeleur Islands as a Site of Hemispheric Importance

Louisiana Wildlife Federation has submitted a letter supporting the nomination of the Chandeleur Islands as a Site of Hemispheric Importance in the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN). The WHSRN helps connect sites to each other, share the latest science and resources, and highlight the importance of a site on an international level. This would be the first site in Louisiana.

In the mid-1980s, scientists from around the Americas were already documenting serious population declines in shorebirds. Recognizing that these birds were in trouble prompted the scientific community to take action and develop the framework for a network of key sites to protect shorebirds and their habitats: the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN). WHSRN is a science-based, partnership-driven, conservation initiative for protecting the ecological integrity of critical habitats for shorebirds throughout the Americas.

The networks is currently comprised of:

  • 116 Sites in the Network
  • 19 Countries Participating
  • 439 Partners
  • 9 million Acres of Shorebird Habitat

LWF supports science-based conservation throughout Louisiana. The remaining barrier islands off the state’s coast are a critical line of defense to protect inland communities from storm surge and protect the fragile interior marshes of the Louisiana coast. The Chandeleur Islands is a well-studied barrier island complex in the north-central Gulf of Mexico. Once spanning over 11,000 acres, only about 10% of that area remains. Even so, this barrier island chain serves as important habitat for both people and wildlife and would greatly benefit from the increased awareness, funding, and collaboration of future conservation efforts that WHSRN recognition could bring.

The importance of the Chandeleur Islands is noted in the many entities that work to conserve the islands and the species that depend on them.

  • In 1904, President Teddy Roosevelt designated the Breton National Wildlife Refuge as the nation’s second in the NWR system.
  • The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority’s Coastal Master Plan includes barrier island restoration as a key feature and is currently working on restoration efforts on the Chandeleur Islands.
  • The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries includes several Species of Conservation Concern in its Wildlife Action Plan the snowy plover, Wilson’s plover, piping plover, American oystercatcher, marbled godwit, dunlin, short-billed dowitcher, and American woodcock. The Chandeleur Islands support one of the highest breeding densities of Wilson’s plover on the Gulf Coast.
  • The Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program partnered with Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program in 2017 on rufa Red Knot research; the surveys conducted provide data to support site nomination for the Chandeleur Islands as a Site of Hemispheric Importance.
  • The National Audubon Society and Birdlife International have named the Breton NWR as an Important Bird Area.
  • The Southeast Conservation Blueprint designated large parts of the Chandeleur and Breton Islands as “highest priority” areas – representing the top 10% across the Southeast and is where conservation action would make the biggest impact, based on a suite of natural and cultural resource indicators.
(Photo from BTNEP website; Photo credit: Barbara Keeler)
(Photo from BTNEP website; Photo credit: Barbara Keeler)

The Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network includes sites landscape, regional, hemispheric, and international importance. There is currently no site (of any category) in Louisiana. Currently, the only sites along the Gulf Coast in the WHSRN are five Sites of International Importance located in Texas and Mexico. The network lacks a Site of Hemispheric Importance around the Gulf of Mexico.

Coastal Louisiana serves as a critical stopover for many shorebird species both during fall migration before the long open-ocean journey to South America and as the first stop in North America on their returning flight. Over half a million shorebirds depend on Louisiana’s wetlands along their migratory journey across the Midcontinental Flyway of the Americas while other species stay in Louisiana to breed or overwinter. The Chandeleur Islands are a fitting addition as a key site to protect shorebirds and their habitats through the WHSRN.

Read LWF’s full Letter of Support here.

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