Apr 20, 2011

One year has passed...

This is going to be a fairly personal entry... It was a year ago today that the Deepwater Horizon exploratory oil rig erupted in flames. This marked the beginning of what may be one of Man's sharpest, most widespread blow to a particular ecosystem - an interconnected, interdependent web of life that is now fractured and failing.

It will take decades before we fully understand the impact that 200,000,000 gallons of crude oil and 2,000,000 gallons of chemical dispersants truly have on life in the Gulf of Mexico - from the microbes and benthos of the sea floor, to the corals and jellies, the fingerlings and fry, the crustaceans and their larvae, the turtles and dolphins, the skimmers, the rails and the fishermen. All one.

The tally of dead or dying animals that have been collected represents a fraction of the actual number of animals killed. It's being estimated that over 80,000 birds perished. How many more could we have saved had we been better prepared - better equipped - and our expertise better utilized?

What Duane and i experienced in the field, searching for and rescuing birds, was inexcusable. Imagine this - if we were put in charge of crews battling the massive wildfires that are currently sweeping across Texas. That's exactly what it was like! We were being given orders and direction from people who had little to no experience in running oiled wildlife field operations or locating and capturing oiled wildlife - and animals suffered because of this. When we stood up to the nonsense, we were forced to pull out, leaving not one person in the field, in Louisiana, with prior oiled wildlife capture experience or training.

The bird rehabilitation program was better, but still weakened by those in charge - high ranking, yes, but lacking knowledge, experience, and wisdom. 

.....................What more can i say?... the situation was grave - the magnitude of the spill was immense, but manageable. What was worse - what was hardest to deal with and hurt our efforts the most, was the crippling from the inside out. 

Just know this - if we'd had leadership within the Unified Command with the necessary skills and experience, or simply the willingness to listen to those who had such knowledge, things would have been very, very different. 

This must never happen again. We must call for change - for whatever it takes - legislation perhaps - that stipulates the role and qualifications of the Wildlife Branch Director. The person who assumes this position must have a level of training and experience that is suited to the magnitude of the spill.