Fifty years ago, Louisiana and Florida joined forces to reintroduce the brown pelican to three of Louisiana’s barrier islands. The first successful recolonization of brown pelicans occurred on one of these islands, Queen Bess Island. Today, erosion has reduced it to a small fraction of its former size, so biologists are once again targeting the island for restoration to help the brown pelican and other important migratory bird species by restoring critical habitat.
In the early 1900s, Louisiana’s brown pelican population was estimated at 50,000 to 80,000. The widespread use of the insecticide DDT, however, took a huge toll on many bird species, including the brown pelican. By 1963, the bird was no longer found in the “Pelican State” except on its flag.
Louisiana and Florida biologists joined forces 50 years ago to reintroduce the bird to Louisiana. From 1968 to 1976, more than 760 brown pelican chicks were relocated from coastal Florida to three of Louisiana’s barrier islands. In 1971, 11 nests were documented on one of these three — Queen Bess Island — marking the first successful recolonization of brown pelicans in Louisiana.
Now biologists have turned their sights on saving Queen Bess Island, located in Barataria Bay just north of Grand Isle, from the erosion that has reduced it to a small fraction of its former size. Because pelicans and their habitat were badly injured by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, settlement funds paid by BP are being used to support current and future restoration work.
The first post-oil spill restoration project for Queen Bess Island, released in 2017, included using $2.5 million of Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) funds for engineering and design. That work is currently underway and will provide the design needed to propose restoration of 29 acres of brown pelican and wading bird habitat, 7 acres of nesting tern habitat and breakwaters on the southwestern perimeter of the island in a future restoration plan. If approved, this NRDA restoration project could begin as early as September 2019 and could be completed by February 2020.
For more information on this and other Deepwater Horizon NRDA restoration projects, check out the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustee Council website.
Source: Gulf Restoration Office of the US Fish & Wildlife Service