BP has mud on its face - or is it oil? - but don't cry for it. While the oil spill disaster will hang like a black, slimy cloud over its head for decades to come, the company surely will recoup its financial losses. America's dependency on oil doesn't appear to be waning, and oil companies will continue to benefit from our thirst for the black gold.
BP's more urgent concern should be public relations - not just with Gulf residents, but with the entire nation. BP should not only compensate and take care of the people who make a living in areas affected by the spill - they should come first - it should also be pressed to financially address the less-talked-about side effects the spill will have, such as how the spill will affect migratory birds - the ducks and geese that we hunt at area lakes and sloughs - that migrate to the Gulf of Mexico from Minnesota every year.
These birds are part of what makes up our culture in Minnesota, and, to a certain extent, drive our economy. Minnesota, home to more than 1.2 million hunters and anglers, annually ranks among the top five states when it comes to the amount of money spent by outdoorsmen. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent annually in Minnesota by hunters alone. If those migrating birds don't make it back, then what? Waterfowl habitats in the Gulf region are in trouble because of the spill, and the birds that attract these hunters, and those from other states, nest along the Gulf of Mexico and face immediate risk when they head south for the winter this year. BP, not the taxpayers, should be responsible for restoring and protecting that habitat. It must be held accountable.
The $20 billion BP Oil Spill Victims Compensation Fund needs to be expanded eventually. Twenty-billion dollars is a lot of money, but it will probably take more to ensure that all aspects of our environment are covered.
U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., recently convened a group of Minnesota waterfowl experts to assess the potential impact of the BP oil spill and what can be done to protect migratory birds and their habitats. Klobuchar's goal is to make sure costs related to the long-term fix of habitat areas in the Gulf are paid for through the compensation fund, and it's up to agencies like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to be proactive and have a coordinated effort lined up when the time comes for action.
We hope both succeed.