As petroleum oozed onto the Gulf coast and oil spill rescue crews found the first greased birds, conservation groups shifted their response efforts into high gear while the White House announced a moratorium on new offshore drilling leases.
“No domestic drilling in new areas is going to go forward until there’s an adequate review of what’s happened here and of what is being proposed elsewhere,” White House Senior Advisor David Axelrod told Good Morning America earlier today.
The New York Times reported that the freeze, however, most likely wouldn’t have an effect right away “since the increased offshore drilling announced last month wasn’t scheduled to take effect until 2012 at the earliest.”
Despite efforts to stop the flow, about 5,000 barrels a day, or 210,000 gallons are still spewing into the ocean from the sea floor via a broken pipe 5,000 feet below the surface.
As for what the oil’s effects will be on the environment, “It’s really still a wait-and-see in many respects,” said Melanie Driscoll, Audubon’s Louisiana Coastal Initiative director of bird conservation. “But there will still be a need for wildlife help because it’s already hitting the marsh.”
She also said during an interview on National Public Radio that brown pelicans, a species that was taken off the Endangered Species List just last November, will be particularly threatened. “A lot of birds have just begun to nest so they're on some of the outer coastal islands and out in the marshes breeding. And because they have nests they are more tied to a location, making it harder for them to avoid the oil or just move to a more inland habitat,” she said.
The region is flush with birdlife, a fact that’s reflective of the globally designated Important Bird Areas (see map), so conservation groups are focusing on mitigating the negative effects of the disaster while looking ahead to recovery efforts.
“I think Audubon’s strength is our long-term commitment to conservation,” said Greg Butcher, Audubon’s director of bird conservation.