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Press Release

U.S. Department of the Interior
U.S. Geological Survey
National Wetlands Research Center
700 Cajundome Blvd.
Lafayette, LA 70506

Contact: Gabrielle Boudreaux Bodin
Phone: 337-266-8655
Fax: 337-266-8541
For Release: September 28, 2000

USFWS, USGS and Partners Honored for Restoring Refuge

Coastal America recently honored the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological Survey for their work in restoring Breton Island, part of the Breton National Wildlife Refuge off the coast of southeastern Louisiana.

Other agencies receiving the Coastal America Partnership Award for the Breton project were the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, National Marine Fisheries Service, and the Louisiana Departments of Natural Resources, Environmental Quality, and Wildlife and Fisheries. Coastal America is a partnership of national, regional and local teams dealing with critical coastal environmental problems.

USFWS employees working on the restoration were James Harris and Pon Dickson of Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuges, headquartered in Slidell, and Darryl Clark and David Walther of the Lafayette Field Office. USGS employees involved in the work were James B. Johnston, William Jones, and Art Calix, all of the National Wetlands Research Center, headquartered in Lafayette.

Established in 1904, the Breton National Wildlife Refuge is the second oldest refuge in the nation and a key component of the Chandeleur Barrier Island Chain. The chain serves as the first line of defense for New Orleans during storms, is economically important for recreational and commercial fishing and shellfish and is a major bird habitat. The chain was damaged during Hurricane Georges in 1998, when Breton Island lost 55 of its 180 acres.

Working with federal and state agencies, the USGS provided high-resolution photographs on wetlands and seagrasses as well as an analysis of habitat; the USGS also verified the photography through site inspection and provided maps that located breaches where restoration could take place.

Most of the material washed away from Breton Island was deposited in the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet and impeded safe navigation. The partnership of federal and state agencies devised a plan for dredging the channel and used the material to return about 1.2 million cubic yards of sediment and sand back to Breton Island to repair beaches and eroded dunes.

Dredged material was placed on the gulf side of the island to restore about 26 acres and protect another 620 acres of shallow waters that provide essential wildlife habitat. The Corps estimated that the island would have been lost within 10 years without the restoration.

Larry Ludke, USGS Central Regional Chief Biologist, said, "I am delighted that our scientists were able to provide data and expertise to guide the restoration of this critical habitat."

"Thanks to this cooperative effort we've been able to restore a jewel of the Delta, the second oldest refuge," said Sam D. Hamilton, USFWS Southeast Regional Director. "The thousands of fine-feathered constituents that are using the island will be a living testament to the grandness of this effort."

The chain is a major habitat for 20,000 redhead ducks that winter in the area each year. Other birds using the chain as habitat are reddish egrets, great blue herons, great egrets, white and brown pelicans, gulls, terns, black skimmers, endangered piping plovers and other shorebirds and seabirds as well as birds of prey like the peregrine falcon.

The world's largest concentration of Sandwich terns nest regularly on the chain and range in numbers from 50,000 to 100,000. USGS biologists estimate that the tern population on the Chandeleur Chain is 55 to 91 percent of the total U.S. breeding population and 34 to 61 percent of the entire worlds population.

Despite their distance from land - about four hours by boat from New Orleans - these islands are an increasingly popular recreation destination. The southern portion of Breton Island is designated as a Class I Wilderness Area. Visitors experience exceptional fishing throughout the year, and primitive camping is allowed on all the islands, with the exception of areas specifically set aside for the protection of nesting seabirds.

The multitude of nesting and wintering seabirds, shorebirds, and other wildlife species has long served to attract birdwatchers and photographers, including the late Roger Troy Peterson.

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