FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, firstname.lastname@example.org
Elizabeth Van Cleve, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, email@example.com
Jacques Hebert, National Audubon Society, 504.264.6849, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jimmy Frederick, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, 225.317.2046, email@example.com
John Lopez, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, 504.421.7348, firstname.lastname@example.org
Conservation Organizations Thank Secretary Jewell for Visiting Gulf Coast
Groups Urge Investment in Large-Scale Restoration with BP Dollars
(New Orleans, LA – June 21, 2016) This week, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell is visiting Louisiana to highlight the Department’s restoration projects selected for funding last year by the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (Council) prior to the BP settlement.
Leading national and local conservation organizations working on Mississippi River Delta and Gulf Coast restoration – Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, the National Wildlife Federation, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation – supported these projects and released the following statement:
“We are grateful that Secretary Jewell is here this week to spotlight the region and these important restoration projects. Secretary Jewell now has an opportunity and responsibility to drive large-scale restoration that we need across the Gulf Coast. With real money becoming available through the BP oil spill settlement, Secretary Jewell, along with other agency and state leaders, has a specific window to move forward the Council’s commitment to large-scale projects that will set the Gulf Coast on a long-term path to a sustainable future.
“In particular, Louisiana's land loss crisis – and the effort to stop and reverse it – falls within the Department of the Interior's jurisdiction given the resources it's tasked with protecting. We appreciate the Secretary's personal investment in getting restoration projects started on the ground and need her continued leadership and commitment in Louisiana and across the Gulf Coast.”
The Department of Interior (DOI) manages three parks or refuges in the lower Mississippi River Delta, one each in the Breton Basin, the active Bird’s Foot Delta, and the Barataria Basin, as well as several other refuges in the Pontchartrain Basin, Terrebonne Basin, the Atchafalaya Basin, and the Chenier Plain. These provide some of the continent’s most important habitat for DOI Trust Resources, including alligators, alligator snapping turtles, diamond-back terrapins, marsh birds, wintering waterfowl, colonial nesting water birds, migratory stopover habitat for neotropical migrants, and prime habitat for mink, muskrat, otter and Louisiana black bears. All are likely to experience profound effects from continued land loss and subsidence, and without land-building restoration measures are potentially doomed by future sea level rise.
The Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition is working to protect people, wildlife and jobs by reconnecting the river with its wetlands. As our region faces the crisis of threatening land loss, we offer science-based solutions through a comprehensive approach to restoration. Composed of conservation, policy, science and outreach experts from Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, we are located in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Washington, D.C.; and around the United States. Learn more at www.mississippiriverdelta.org and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.
By Theryn Henkel, Assistant Director for Coastal Sustainability, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation
Due to popular demand, the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation has created Hydrocoast Maps for Barataria Basin. As it has done in neighboring Pontchartrain Basin, the maps for the Barataria Basin will monitor the salinity, freshwater input, weather and fisheries in order to gain a deeper understanding of estuarine dynamics, changes to the basin over time and to provide a baseline to monitor future changes as restoration projects are completed.
Hydrocoast Maps provide a snapshot of the conditions of the estuary, such as the distribution of saline to fresh water. The maps are designed to be useful to a diverse audience including the general public, fishers, agency personnel and academics. By expanding into the Barataria Basin, people that work and recreate there can benefit from the maps as those in the Pontchartrain Basin already do.
The Barataria Hydrocoast maps will consist of the following maps and analyze:
- Salinity Map – isohalines (lines on maps connecting points of equal salinity) and freshwater inflows
- Weather Map – cumulative rainfall and wind data
- Biological Map – fisheries fleets and closures, impaired waters for fishing
The Barataria Hydrocoast Maps will be surveyed and released every eight weeks on the following schedule:
- July 18-24
- September 12-18
- November 7-13
- January 2-8
- February 27 – March 5
Learn more and access the Barataria Basin and Pontchartrain Basin maps at www.saveourlake.org/coastal-hydromap.php
Dr. Theryn Henkel is currently the Assistant Director for the Coastal Sustainability Program at the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, a local not-for-profit located in New Orleans, Louisiana. Theryn completed her undergraduate studies in environmental science at the University of Long Island at Southampton then went on to complete her Master’s Degrees in Applied Ecology at Indiana University. She obtained her Doctorate degree at Tulane University in Ecology, focusing on forested wetland recovery from damage caused by hurricanes. She is currently involved in projects that investigate the effects of “legacy river diversions”, wetland loss, reforestation and the development and evolution of created wetlands in an urban environment. Theryn is originally from Seattle, Washington, where she grew up enjoying all the outdoor activities that are available in that beautiful region of the United States.
Guest post by The Very Rev. William Terry, M.P.S., M.Div.
God of unchangeable power, when you fashioned the world the morning stars sang together and the host of heaven shouted for joy; open our eyes to the wonders of creation and teach us to use all things for good, to the honor of your glorious name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Source: A New Zealand Prayer Book, p. 569)
Before our city and coastlands were flooded by Hurricane Katrina, there was a cry to rebuild wetlands that were disappearing. Before I became a priest, I was involved in the shrimp-boat industry. I had the privilege to befriend Cajun and Vietnamese families that had been fishing for generations. “Saltwater incursion” was a term I learned about very early on. We knew then and did nothing or very little. The voices of a few fishermen echoed in an endless hymn of subsistence, in a void hemmed in by the greed of special interest.
I have also been involved with the offshore industry through various professional positions. My father was a marine surveyor, so I was brought along to shipyard after shipyard during my youthful summers. We were also a multi-generational boating family, so I came to know our coastlands and learned about all the potential bounty it provided.
I can even remember when Cat Island was big, and we’d camp on its peninsula. I remember steaming out to Chandeleur Island when it was an island and not a reef. I remember seeing vast schools of fish in Mississippi Sound and trolling for mackerel, fishing for white trout and watching the pogie boats set out their nets. But as the song says, “It ain’t der no more,” or at least not like it was.
Then I became a priest. Now my experience is filtered through the sacred lens of my faith. That experience includes all things created. If you think for a moment that the bayous, wetlands or offshore islands are not sacred, then you haven’t seen a sunrise in winter in a pond off of Lake Borgne. If you think that our linkage to nature is only a means to our personal ends, then you haven’t read the Gospels.
Somewhere and somehow, we lost our communion with creation. Nature, even our wetlands, became an object to an end – no longer a co-participant in creation and the cosmos, but rather “a resource” to be used without consideration of moral, ethical and even sacred thresholds.
The heart of a faith-based eco-theology stretches back to the very start of Christianity. Indeed, the harshest critic of abusive power and thoughtless human consumption was that little Rabbi Yeshua. He gives us a constant critique of wealth on the altar rather than God and humanity. So it is with eco-theologians. In the 12th century, a nun by the name of Hilda critiqued and catalogued the pollution of the Rhine River and called for a unification and cooperation with nature in her writings. In the early and into the mid 20th century, holy scientists like de Chardin would say:
“The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides, and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, we shall have discovered fire.”
Later in the 20th century, outspoken voices like Thomas Berry, a scientist-theologian, would seek to reunify nature and the sacred. He would claim that as Christians, our obsession with redemption history is out of sacred context and causes a chasm between God and humanity. He reminds us:
“The naïve assumption that the natural world is there to be possessed and used by humans for their advantage and in an unlimited manner cannot be accepted.”
If the sunrise on the sea and the wind in salt marshes are sacred, then such is also a litany of sacred expression. Just as holy people everywhere are called to care for sacred texts, churches, mosques and synagogues, then too we are called as people of faith to care for the even greater sacred text that is Nature.
So, is there confession of sin in the wetlands? Is there a movement toward reconciliation with creation? Is there a desire to repent and to “sin no more?” I hope so. I pray so. I dream of a day when our wetlands heal and in their health, we find our health.
Tracking Fish with Acoustic Telemetry—Implementation of an Exciting Technology in Lake PontchartrainMay 31, 2016 | Posted by Emily McCalla in Hunting and Fishing, Science, Wildlife
By Nic Dixon, Outreach Associate, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) and many other fisheries organizations and scientists worldwide have traditionally used fish tags to keep track of fish populations. You may have even applied these simple dart-tipped plastic tags to a fish yourself. Standard fish tagging efforts (in part) identify where the fish was originally captured, Point A, and then where the fish was recaptured, Point Z. But there is not a clear picture of where these fish were for points B, C, D, etc.
Now, thanks to an acoustic telemetry project, LDWF has been able to pinpoint the exact locations of 244 speckled trout, 64 redfish and 18 bull sharks in the Lake Pontchartrain area.
What exactly is acoustic telemetry you ask? It’s the ability to track animals at a distance using sound. An acoustic transmitter that emits a pinging sound is surgically implanted into the fish. When the fish swims within a half mile of one of the dozens of stationary receivers scattered around Lake Pontchartrain, it records the transmitter’s ping as time, date and fish ID number. This data is downloaded from all of the receivers every 6-8 weeks, and LDWF publishes their data in an interactive map: the LDWF fish tracker.
This information isn’t just exciting for the intrigued anglers in Lake Pontchartrain, it’s also exciting for scientists, policymakers and conservationists alike. This newly implemented technology has started to shed light on everything from fish migration patterns and habitat preferences to residency time and environmental impacts.
Seeing how fish responded to the brief opening of the Bonnet Carre’ spillway earlier this year is of particular interest. It has allowed us to study how fish might react to a large input of river water during high water events. This technology would also be useful in determining how fish respond to changes resulting from the planned Mid-Breton and Mid-Barataria sediment diversions. Additional research would be needed to understand how this technology can be used to monitor these basins. Nonetheless, an interesting observation was made by Ashley Ferguson, LDWF Biologist and fish telemetry expert, that “under the conditions at the time of the spillway opening, including the cooler water temperatures and the short 22-day opening, adult tagged spotted seatrout (speckled trout) and red drum (redfish) were not observed leaving Lake Pontchartrain.” This observation could help inform how a future sediment diversion might be operated and minimize impact on certain fish populations.
Our coalition of organizations is excited to see this technology being developed and hope its use will extend to other places such as the Breton and Barataria Basins. It could help tremendously with the state’s plan for monitoring and adaptive management of its restoration projects’ impact on fisheries.
Nic Dixon assists in CRCL community engagement efforts with workshops, interviews, data collection, and any additional communication tasks such as producing and distributing video content. Nic has had a diversity of lab and field research experiences in ecology ranging from the Yukon River Delta in Alaska to the Mississippi River Delta in Louisiana. He joined CRCL in 2014 after graduating from Louisiana State University’s School of Renewable Natural Resources.
By Richie Blink, Plaquemines Parish Community Outreach Coordinator, National Wildlife Federation
May is American Wetlands Month, and Louisiana's coastal wetlands are some of the most productive ecosystems in North America. Not only do they provide habitat for numerous fish, wildlife and birds, but they also help improve water quality, provide recreational opportunities and protection for people and infrastructure from damaging storm surges.
Wildlife habitat and nurseries
Wetlands serve as a nursery environment for juvenile fish. The countless ponds, bays and bayous found in the Mississippi River Delta provide essential habitat for most commercial and game fish found in the Gulf of Mexico. Menhaden, shrimp, oysters and blue crab area all important commercial species that depend on healthy coastal wetlands to thrive. Additionally, fur-bearers like muskrat, beaver and mink, as well as reptiles including alligators call coastal wetlands and estuaries home.
Storm surge protection
Wetlands have an incredible value for people, too. One acre of wetlands has the capacity to hold up to 1 million gallons of water during a flood! On average, damaging storm surges are reduced by one foot for every 2.7 miles of wetlands, reducing wave energy and protecting levees and other critical infrastructure from these destructive forces of nature. The value of community protection for a one-mile strip of wetlands is valued at $5.7 million.
Wetlands also help improve water quality by filtering and retaining residential, agricultural and urban wastes. Reconnection of the Mississippi River to surrounding wetlands would help filter out nutrients that are contribute to a harmful low oxygen area in the Gulf of Mexico dubbed the “dead zone.” The shallow waters of coastal wetlands are good habitat for submerged aquatic vegetation, which can utilize the extra nutrients and potentially reduce the Gulf of Mexico dead zone as well as increasing water clarity.
Restoring Louisiana’s coastal wetlands
Louisiana holds 40 percent of the coastal wetlands in the continental U.S. and is currently experiencing around 80 percent of all coastal wetland loss in the U.S. Work is currently underway to restore and rebuild wetlands in the Mississippi River Delta through projects in the state’s Coastal Master Plan, including sediment diversions and marsh creation. The reintroduction of Mississippi River water and sediment to its delta plain allows new wetlands to build and flourish, providing habitat for wildlife, clean water, places to recreate, and protection for storm surge.
Louisiana’s wetlands are a national treasure worth protecting. Learn more about why wetlands are important: https://www.epa.gov/wetlands/may-american-wetlands-month-learn-explore-take-action.
As the Plaquemines Community Outreach Coordinator for the Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition, Richie Blink works closely with local stakeholders to ensure widespread support of sustainable restoration of the Mississippi River Delta. Prior to joining the coalition Richie served as the Coastal Zone Program Manager with Plaquemines Parish Government to achieve a zero net loss of wetlands. He organized grassroots wetland restoration efforts that resulted in the planting of more than 15,000 cypress trees to reverse land loss and reduce storm surge near his hometown south of New Orleans. He serves as a board member of the Woodlands Conservancy, a nonprofit land trust organization focused on preservation of Louisiana’s coastal forest ecosystems. Richie served for three years on the Plaquemines Coastal Zone Advisory Committee which selects coastal restoration projects for implementation. In his free time, he guides motorboat tours into Louisiana’s coastal wetlands for Lost Lands Environmental Tours L3C. Always exploring, Richie holds a private pilot license and is a U.S. Coast Guard licensed captain.