April 30 A giant oil slick from last week's deadly offshore drilling rig explosion in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico threatens wide-scale environmental damage across the coastline of four Gulf states.
Here are some of the national parks and wildlife refuges that are in the path of the spill, which threatens the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida:
PASS-A-LOUTRE WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA - LOUISIANA
The oil slick is likely to hit this reserve on Louisiana's southern-most tip near Venice first. The refuge is home to endangered species like the Brown pelican (the Louisiana state bird), the least tern, and piping plover.
BRETON NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE. LOUISIANA
This is the second oldest federal refuge, established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1904 after the ardent conservationist learned about the plight of bird species due to human activity. These barrier islands are home to endangered species like the Brown pelican, least tern and piping plover, 23 species of seabirds and shorebirds light here, along with rabbits, raccoons and loggerhead sea turtles. It's home to 34,000 birds, including 2,000 pairs of pelicans, 5,000 pairs of royal terns, 5,000 pairs of caspian terns and 5,000 pairs of feeding, loafing and nesting gulls and other shore birds.
SANDHILL CRANE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, MISSISSIPPI
The refuge's namesake is the long-winged crane, which nest here in mating pairs and whose hatchlings are born in April. It was established in 1975 after about 75 percent of birds' natural habitat was destroyed by timbering and farming.
GULF ISLANDS NATIONAL SEASHORE NATIONAL PARK, MISS./FLORIDA
This park's snow-white beaches and coastal marshes are home to 12 federally listed threatened or endangered species including the Perdido Key Beach Mouse.
GRAND BAY NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, MISS./ALABAMA
Established in 1992 the refuge holds one of the nation's biggest expanses of pine savanna. The diverse habitat also includes maritime forest, tidal and non-tidal wetlands, salt marshes, salt pannes, bays and bayous.
BON SECOUR NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, ALABAMA
French for "safe harbor," the 7,000 acres (2,833 hectares) of wildlife habitat are home to migratory birds, nesting sea turtles and the endangered Alabama beach mouse. Its dune-ridden beaches are nesting sites for loggerhead and Kemp's Ridley sea turtles. More than 370 species of birds migrate through the refuge, including ospreys and herons, also home to seven species of hummingbirds and animals like the red fox and coyote.
Sources: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, National Park Service (Reporting by Chris Baltimore in Houston, Editing by Sandra Maler) )