PENSACOLA, FL – In a visit to Gulf Islands National Seashore, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today praised and encouraged professionals from the National Park Service (NPS) and Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and volunteers who are working tirelessly to protect sensitive coastal areas and wildlife species threatened by the BP oil spill.
“Under the leadership of President Obama, Admiral Allen and the Unified Command, we have mobilized an army of national park rangers, wildlife managers, scientists, and natural resource professionals that is working non-stop to keep oil off the shores and to fix the damage that BP’s spill is causing,” said Salazar, who is making his ninth trip to the Gulf region since the Deepwater Horizon exploded. “We will continue to defend America’s national parks and wildlife refuges from BP’s oil spill and see to it that these places are restored and that those responsible pay the bill.”
Salazar today visited Petit Bois Island in Alabama, observed response preparations on the Barrier Islands, and joined a National Park Service volunteer clean-up program at Fort Pickens in Florida. All sites are units of the Gulf Islands National Seashore.
In the Gulf of Mexico, the Department of the Interior protects 8 national parks and 36 wildlife refuges, from Texas to Florida. FWS has dispatched 428 staff to deal with Gulf response efforts, and NPS has dispatched 158 staff to deal with Gulf response efforts.
Interior’s oil spill response efforts are under the coordinated leadership of National Incident Commander Admiral Thad Allen. Under the coordinated response, the Administration has authorized 17,500 National Guard troops from Gulf Coast states to participate in the response to the BP oil spill. More than 24,700 personnel are currently responding to protect the shoreline and wildlife and cleanup vital coastlines. More than 5,500 vessels are responding on site, including skimmers, tugs, barges, and recovery vessels to assist in containment and cleanup efforts—in addition to dozens of aircraft, remotely operated vehicles, and multiple mobile offshore drilling units.
“With park rangers, refuge managers, volunteers, and communities, we are waging an all-out campaign to save the Gulf Coast,” said Salazar. “This crisis is a call to action to fight for America’s wildlife; for the parks, refuges, and places we love; and for the marshes, beaches, and fisheries that support peoples’ livelihoods. We must see to it that no matter what, our children and grandchildren can come here to Gulf Islands National Seashore and enjoy a place that is healthier, more full of life, and even more pristine and beautiful than we have ever known.”
The National Park Service has deployed incident management personnel from across the country to prepare for and respond to oil impacts along the Gulf Coast. As oil continues to come onshore at Gulf Islands National Seashore and creeps closer to other national parks in Florida, Louisiana and Texas, National Park Service employees regularly based in these parks as well as those deployed as part of various incident teams are working to assess and clean up oil impacts and protect the park’s critical natural and cultural resources, including wildlife, birds, and historic structure and serve the visiting public. NPS is providing Resource Advisors (READs) to the field to ensure that response crews operate in compliance with the established sensitive resources guidelines.
The Fish and Wildlife Service is conducting, coordinating, and supervising search and capture for oiled wildlife. FWS is conducting aerial flights to identify oiled wildlife and helping facilitate recovery and treatment. The Service is also leading 17 bird survey teams in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida under the National Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration program to determine the extent of the oil impact on birds. FWS is training four additional teams for survey work in Texas.
For information about the response effort, visit www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com.