A new report from the Environmental Defense Fund and Walton Family Foundation estimates wildlife tourism along the Gulf of Mexico is a $19 billion industry. Local officials want that report used as evidence to back up claims for future BP fine money.
Louisiana Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne says hunting, fishing, bird watching, swamp tours and other wildlife activities draw 2 million people to the state every year.
He says it’s vital that Louisiana gets a share of the Clean Water Act fines to be assessed BP over its 2010 oil spill.
“We know that there’s long-term damage," he said. "We have to be smart in the way we address the physiological fix as well as the cultural consequences that can be very beneficial to saving Louisiana’s coast, saving the lifestyle that we all enjoy and enhancing an industry — the tourism industry — that means big dollars for Louisiana.”
Defense Fund spokesman Steve Cochran says the report highlights the financial benefits of protecting and improving the Gulf Coast.
“What BP is paying for is not based on anything other than the federal law requires they be fined for their action," he said. "Then what we do with the money is up to us and that’s what we need to make this decision about.”
Officials at a Lake Pontchartrain news conference where the report was released say Gulf Coast tourism accounts for almost 3 million jobs.