“We’ve Dropped Everything … To Be The Voice Of Wildlife”

So far, Memorial Day weekend has brought nothing but more bad news in the ongoing BP oil drilling disaster. BP’s “top kill” effort to stop the gusher hasn’t worked. And the spill continues turning a huge swath of the Gulf of Mexico into a dead zone.

Jeremy Symons, senior vice president of the National Wildlife Federation, gave the Washington Post a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s been like to respond to the spill:

Symons said the spill is at the top of the minds of everybody in the National Wildlife Federation, no matter their job. “We’ve dropped everything, family plans, work plans to spend time down there to be the voice of wildlife. . . . It’s like seeing your kids in harm’s way. It’s hard to focus on anything but making sure we’re doing everything we can.”

The National Wildlife Federation has been taking reporters to places where wildlife is affected, said Symons. He posted a video from his trip on YouTube. He was on Capital Hill Wednesday when a woman who works on environmental issues told him how powerful his video from the gulf had been. The video shows Symons 15 miles from the Biloxi wetlands, hitting a wave of oil on the water. “We had seen oil sheen, we had seen dispersed oil. This was the first time we had run into heavy oil sitting on the water.”

Symons scooped a glob into his hands. “I tried to imagine how it would be for wildlife trying to scrape it off. It just covered my hands more and more completely. It just completely coated my skin with a greasy heavy oil, and at that moment, you realize what you never see on TV: the fate of wildlife that encounters this mess.”

The work, he says, is galvanizing, a pushback against the feelings of helplessness and the inexorable bigness of the disaster. But the emotion of it all still catches him. Every day, he said, his kids ask: ” ‘Have they fixed the hole? Have they stopped it?’ And there’s nothing to say, day after day after day after day.”

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For all the latest news on how the oil spill is impacting the Gulf Coast’s wildlife & to learn how you can help, visit NWF.org/OilSpill.