Thursday, October 13, 2005

Wetlands Before Poor People?

It appears that traditional environmental groups are promoting wetlands and barrier island restoration over assisting poor people in the Mississippi River Delta and other Gulf Coast areas. Admittedly, wetlands and barrier islands protect coastal communities by acting as buffers against hurricane storm surges, but they are clearly impotent against category 4 and 5 hurricanes. Hardened infrastructure, from homes and levees to commercial and industrial buildings, will receive most of hundreds of billions of dollars in construction restoration funding. The Army Corps of Engineers will probably spend billions on wetlands and barrier island restoration too, but the poor should be the priority with restoration resources.

We strongly suggest, to the extent that the $6 billion per year mainstream environmental movement dedicates funding to Gulf Coast relief, that the majority of such funding should be used to directly help the poor to restore their lives before providing assistance for wetlands and barrier island restoration. It appears that traditional environmental groups blame the levee systems for much of the loss of 1.2 million acres (1,900 square miles) of southern Louisiana wetlands since 1930. Groups should not oppose levee retrofits and construction as has been recently publicized regarding past projects. It will take a combination of wetlands and barrier island protections, along with strengthening of levees to protect New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

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