The catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico caused by last week’s explosion of an offshore BP oil rig has put local economies, wildlife and the Gulf’s delicate coastal ecosystem at risk.

Ultimately, this accident could rank as one of the worst environmental disasters in US history with wildlife and conservation groups saying the oil could pose huge problems for Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida coastal areas.

In a furious campaign to mitigate the damage, desperate efforts are under way to clean up the affected regions, save the wildlife and try to restore a delicate balance to the area’s eco-system. How can you help? posted a good round-up of groups already on the ground, which many of the entries below were drawn from.

The Audubon Society, working with the Louisiana Coastal Initiative, is making its Center for Birds of Prey in Florida available for bird cleansing and rehabilitation and is seeking volunteers. Elsewhere, Audubon is mobilizing volunteers to provide assistance as the oil reaches land in Louisiana and elsewhere. Find a local office.

The Deep Water Horizon response team is looking for help in identifying shoreline and animals affected. Oiled wildlife should not be captured but instead reported at 1-866-557-1401. To report areas with oil ashore or to leave contact information to volunteer in the affected areas, call 1-866-448-5816.

The Alabama Coastal Foundation is collecting contact information from volunteers for cleanup efforts along the Alabama coast should the oil spill reach the state’s shores. Call 251-990-6002 for information.

The Mobile Bay National Estuary Program is looking for volunteers to help reduce the potential impact of the oil spill in Mobile Bay and to raise awareness of the necessary community precautions. Call 251-431-6409.

The Mobile Baykeeper is collecting contact information for volunteers to respond anywhere along the Gulf Coast, if needed, as a sort of rapid response team. Call 251-433-4229.

Save Our Seabirds, a Florida bird rescue group, is looking for volunteers to support its response team in assisting oiled wildlife. Call 941-388-3010 for details.

The National Wildlife Federation is helping coordinate on-the-ground volunteer initiatives through the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and has good social networking tools and strategies to get the message out.

Finally, implore your elected reps to recognize what is so obvious: that we need comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation so we have less oil to spill (as well as to pollute.)