From NBC's Ken Strickland
Louisiana Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) says the efforts to rescue animals from the oil spill "needs to be ramped up significantly."
In a letter to Adm. Thad Allen and the director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, Vitter is asking that the wildlife rescue teams be expanded because growing number of animals in danger.
"Anecdotal evidence I have gathered, including from my own trip to East Grand Terre Island and verified reports of one and a half hour response times in some cases, make it clear to me that the relatively low numbers of oiled wildlife reported up to last week are either inaccurate or now completely outdated," Vitter writes.
Here's the full text of Vitter's letter:
Dear Admiral Allen and Dr. Gould:
As the oil spill disaster continues, I would like to highlight an important part of the response, which, unfortunately, needs to be ramped up significantly: dealing with affected birds, mammals, and wildlife. I write to ask your assistance in ensuring that we devote the proper resources to rescuing as many affected animals as possible.
I am very thankful for the efforts of the Unified Command and many organizations already on the ground, including Tri-State Bird Rescue, the International Bird Rescue Research Center, the Oiled Wildlife Care Network, and many volunteers provided by the Louisiana State Animal Response Team. Also, I know that the Humane Society of the United States and other organizations stand ready to provide more trained and licensed responders.
As this event moves from affecting one state to now four, and as the heavy oil hitting shore spreads almost exponentially, it seems clear that the effort must be expanded now. Anecdotal evidence I have gathered, including from my own trip to East Grand Terre Island and verified reports of 1½ hour response times in some cases, make it clear to me that the relatively low numbers of oiled wildlife reported up to last week are either inaccurate or now completely outdated.
I have two specific requests. First, as the Unified Command deploys vessels to gather data on water conditions and to conduct reconnaissance, I ask that each team include one to two persons who are properly trained to spot and handle wildlife humanely. This would greatly expand the wildlife teams beyond the limited vessels dedicated exclusively to that purpose.
Second, I would like to have a conference call soon with the appropriate people in your agencies to discuss the animal rescue efforts. My office will be in touch later today to schedule that call.
Thank you for your work during this response, including what has been done already and will continue to be done to help the affected animals.