Archive for People
By Happy Johnson, National Wildlife Federation
Louisiana is facing a coastal crisis. We lose one football field of wetlands every hour. 1,900 square miles of land has been lost already since the 1930s, and another 1,800 square miles are expected to be lost within the next 50 years unless we implement significant coastal restoration projects. Coastal land loss has strong, direct impacts on all communities, especially Black and Vietnamese fishing populations in the Mississippi River Delta. Without urgent restoration of Louisiana’s dying wetlands, we stand to lose these vital groups, cultures and economies.
Many fishermen who saw their families, homes and boats dismantled by Hurricane Katrina experienced compounded economic damage during the BP oil disaster. As a result, communities of color making a living in the fishing industry are dramatically shrinking.
The before-mentioned disasters also present a remarkable opportunity to implement policy and project solutions that mitigate land loss, reduce carbon emissions and tackle relative sea level rise. Examples of those solutions include Louisiana’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan and the RESTORE Act, both of which harness science and community capacity to engineer a more resilient Gulf Coast.
On the third Tuesdays of June, July and August, the New Orleans branch of the National Wildlife Federation hosted a three-part series of informal residential gatherings titled “Community Conversations on Coastal Restoration” at the New Orleans Healing Center.
Representatives from neighborhood associations, community development organizations, curious residents, students and vocal coastal leaders attended these events to discuss the BP oil spill impacts, the RESTORE Act, the Coastal Master Plan and the Louisiana First Hiring Act. The overarching mission of this series was to help enhance coastal competency in urban communities.
State and federal investments in southeast Louisiana provide opportunities to build community strength against future catastrophes. How do we diversity grassroots and local residential interest and then turn that interest into advocacy? I think it begins with building trust, expanding opportunities and having in-depth conversations.
The emerging coastal restoration economy provides significant avenues for job growth, educational training and workforce development. Now is the time for New Orleans as a whole to prepare for the future.No Comments
By Maura Wood (National Wildlife Federation) and Brian Jackson (Environmental Defense Fund)
For decades, the people of southern Louisiana have gradually struggled with the collapse of the Mississippi River Delta. Land that once provided shelter from hurricanes, space for agriculture, a basis for livelihoods and a source for recreation has — sometimes in one generation — disappeared. This slow-motion crisis has forced communities and economies along Louisiana’s coast to adapt to collapse.
Large-scale restoration of the delta provides new hope that the system can again become sustainable. But turning coastal Louisiana around from a system losing land to one rebuilding it will require transition and adaptation for coastal residents and communities. Change is inevitable, but the direction of that change will shift dramatically from the loss that communities have been adapting to for generations to a more dynamic and sustainable system that is gaining land.
Louisiana’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan sets out bold action for restoration and importantly highlights the need for “providing for transitions,” i.e. addressing potential changes that stakeholders may face as projects are implemented and acknowledging the grief and adjustment imposed by existing land loss.
The master plan uses many methods of restoration, asserting that “The action we need requires changing the landscape, not just tweaking what we already have.” Projects such as marsh creation, sediment diversions, ridge restoration, oyster barrier reefs and hydrologic restoration have been chosen for their ability to build land and sustain the coast over the long term. At the same time, they may also be accompanied by short or long-term changes in water elevation and salinity regimes as diversions are operated; changes in access as land is built and hydrology is restored; shifts in habitats in response to land building; and other social, cultural, and economic changes as a result of physical changes to the landscape. The plan stresses that “If we don’t take large-scale action, land loss and flooding will grow so severe that ours will be the last generation that benefits from Louisiana’s working coast.”
The master plan commits to helping communities and user groups adapt to these changes three ways: by developing a planning framework for adapting to change; by involving stakeholders in project design to minimize impacts; and by identifying tools that may assist communities, businesses, and individuals in transitioning to a sustainable — but likely different — new coastal regime.
The challenge is to flesh out these commitments into a creative discussion that moves beyond despair and dislocation. Ideally, transition from the collapsing coast of today to a dynamic but sustainable coast of the future will continue and renew the connection between land, livelihoods, communities and culture. Perhaps through the “planning framework,” stakeholders themselves will be able to propose how transition can result in building a better future for individuals, communities and businesses.
Because the environmental challenges we face are unprecedented, bold actions must be taken. The ultimate benefits and impacts of such actions lie in the future and cannot be completely known. But we know that without action, our coast will continue collapsing. Increasing our ability to work together — marked by increased collaboration, communication, networking and interaction, as well as the establishment of common goals and mutual trust — increases our ability to make decisions, correct mistakes and create a coastal future together. Therefore, the Coastal Master Plan’s commitment to engaging stakeholders and addressing transition is a linchpin for successful forward progress toward a sustainable coast for everyone.No Comments
Alisha Renfro is the staff scientist for the National Wildlife Federation’s (NWF) Mississippi River Delta Restoration program. Based in New Orleans, she provides accurate scientific information to help advocate for the best coastal restoration projects for Louisiana. She also helps translate scientific information for the Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign’s public outreach and communication efforts.
Prior to joining NWF, Alisha had been actively involved in research examining beach erosion in South Carolina, sediment transport in tidal riverine marshes and swamps in North Carolina, and sediment transport and deposition in coastal marshes in New York. For her doctoral work, she used naturally occurring radioactive forms of elements to trace sediment transport and deposition in the bay and the deteriorating wetlands of the Jamaica Bay Gateway National Recreation Area near New York. She holds a B.S. in marine science from Coastal Carolina University, an M.S. in marine science from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and a Ph.D. in marine and atmospheric science from Stony Brook University.
“Although I grew up in land-locked central Indiana, I always loved the coast,” said Alisha. “Going to school in South Carolina gave me an opportunity to do coastal research, but I also found that I was really interested in coastal management. My work at NWF has given me the opportunity to combine my interests in coastal management and science and to do something I’m really passionate about — using the best science available to build a better future for coastal Louisiana.”No Comments
By Audrey Payne, Environmental Defense Fund
Ecology and Environment, Inc. (E & E) is an environmental consulting firm that was founded in 1970 and prides itself on its ability to get “the most environmental bang for your buck.” A few of their projects include helping countries around the world write environmental policy; working on environmental issues through social and political turmoil, oil embargoes and environmental disasters; and helping to restore the Gulf Coast. Environmental restoration has become a major part of E & E’s work, and the company has paired up with several non-profit organizations on projects, including The Nature Conservancy, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, National Audubon Society, Riverkeeper and a few land trust organizations. The company’s goal is to remain ahead of the curve in environmentally sustainable practices, and it has been instrumental in not only carrying out restoration projects in the Gulf of Mexico, but also in planning them.
“The Gulf Coast is everyone’s responsibility,” says Bill Hudson of Ecology and Environment. “We are particularly pleased that Congress has finally passed the RESTORE Act. Beyond directing much-needed funding to the gulf, the legislation does a great job of integrating ecological and economic recovery and making sure that projects across the region are planned, coordinated, and managed using the best available science and ecosystem-based and adaptive management approaches.”
Ecology and Environment, Inc.: A philosophy of sustainability
Ecology and Environment, Inc., headquartered in Lancaster, N.Y., has offices in 43 cities across the United States, including one in Baton Rouge, La., as well as 17 more offices throughout the world. The company has worked in just about every ecosystem imaginable, from the arctic to the tropics, and it employs over 1,150 experts in 85 different science and engineering disciplines, contributing to its multidisciplinary approach to problem solving. The company strives to promote economic and human development in an environmentally sustainable manner and says that “sustainability is the culture in which we live, work, and conduct business; it extends from our local neighborhoods to the global community.”
Ecology and Environment, Inc. offers services in several markets, including power, government, oil and natural gas, renewable energy and mining. One of its points of pride is its approach to ecological and ecosystem management. Hudson says an example of E & E’s expertise in ecosystem management is its work with oyster beds. “Anybody could go out and build an oyster bed,” explains Hudson. “But you don’t want to build an oyster bed in water that’s not good for growing oysters. If there’s too much sediment, or if the water’s not right, or you’re destroying a bed of seagrass to put in the oysters, then they’re not going to grow like you want them to, and it’s not worth it. That’s why we do a lot of planning, testing and assessing before we actually take action.”
Ecology and Environment and the Gulf of Mexico
Before Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil disaster of 2010, wetland restoration in the Gulf of Mexico had not been a main priority of the nation, even though it is well-documented that wetlands provide storm and flood protection to communities and natural areas as well as habitat for wildlife and seafood. However, those two disasters put restoring the gulf on the nation’s radar, and E & E has been heavily involved post-disaster. Hudson points out that E & E staff has attended almost every gulf restoration conference since the BP oil spill.
After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, E & E worked with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers and the state of Louisiana to document damage to coastal wetlands. They conducted habitat analyses to find out where the most damage had been done, and they also helped develop restoration plans in several national wildlife refuges, such as Sabine, Cameron Prairie, Big Branch Marsh and Bayou Sauvage, to diminish the negative effects of storm damage. The Mississippi River Delta acts as an incredibly important habitat for waterfowl, and this habitat has been put at risk by damaged wetlands and strong storms.
In collaboration with Arcadis, E & E worked with the Louisiana Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration (OCPR) on the Innovative Dredging Initiative project. The purpose of the project was to develop a plan to look at new contracting techniques and bidding methods that could reduce the cost and streamline the design of constructing restoration projects. E & E also led the development of the Inland Marsh Restoration Plan for Louisiana and investigated new dredging contracting techniques and bidding methods that could reduce costs while streamlining the design of dredging projects.
These projects included a study proposal on alternatives to dumping dredged soil into upland confined disposal facilities (CDFs) or into the Gulf of Mexico. The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers is required to dispose of sediment dredged during the maintenance of waterways in the most cost-effective way possible. E & E proposed instead that the dredged sediment could be beneficially used to for wetland restoration. The proposal included locating ideal wetland areas to restore with sediment, creating a schedule of high-priority beneficial use restoration projects, developing cost projections and integrating these findings with OCPR’s existing plans. This was all part of E & E’s decision to take an active role in proposing how best to restore the coast.
“With the passage of RESTORE, there is a huge opportunity here to set a new international standard for integrated, large-scale ecosystem restoration, and E&E is eager to be a part of it,” said Hudson. “Hopefully, RESTORE will lead to many, many more restoration projects once the funding becomes available.”
- Building a Restoration Economy: Environmental Restoration = Economic Restoration
- Ecology and Environment, Inc.
This piece builds on the "Profiles in Resilience" series started on Environmental Defense Fund's Restoration and Resilience blog. Please check back here for future installments.
By Audrey Payne, Environmental Defense Fund
“Restoring the earth, one community at a time.…” This tagline appears on the website of Biohabitats, Inc., an ecologically-driven company based in Baltimore, Md. Biohabitats specializes in conservation planning, ecological restoration and regenerative design and does restoration work in the Everglades, Big Cypress and Tampa Bay, Fla.; Texas and Louisiana; and has several office locations across the country, including Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Colorado, New Mexico and New Jersey.
Company president and founder Keith Bowers has been a strong supporter of the RESTORE Act – legislation currently making its way through Congress that would bring 80 percent of the $5 to $21 billion in expected Clean Water Act penalties from the gulf oil spill back to the five gulf states for ecological restoration and economic development. Passage of the RESTORE Act would help companies like Biohabitats increase work along the Gulf Coast.
Economic Benefits of Coastal Restoration
“The Mississippi River Delta is home to millions of acres of coastal wetlands, providing habitat for commercial fisheries, recreation, natural filtering and storm surge protection,” said Mr. Bowers. “The ecological and economic value of these wetlands is undeniable, yet we are losing thousands of acres each year to overdevelopment, poor management and neglect. Restoring these wetlands will not only begin to reverse this decline, it will also add thousands of jobs in the process.”
“Coastal habitat restoration typically creates at least 3-4 times as many jobs as road infrastructure or oil and gas projects for every $1 million invested,” continued Bowers, who readily acknowledges that ecological restoration can be a real catalyst for job creation, economic vitality and ecosystem resiliency throughout the Mississippi River Delta. “Passing the RESTORE Act would help revitalize local communities while simultaneously increasing the natural capital that we all depend on for clean air, fresh water, healthy soils and wholesome food. It’s a win-win for everyone!”
Introducing Biohabitats, Inc.
The Biohabitats mission is twofold: To “restore the earth and inspire ecological stewardship” and to “inspire communities to rediscover a sense of place through preserving indigenous ecosystems, restoring biodiversity and inspiring ecological stewardship.” Biohabitats believes it has an ethical responsibility to protect nature and to restore it for future generations, and it does so with practices that are defined by blending sound science, place-based design and ecological democracy. Biohabitats stays true to its mission through a multifaceted approach to its work that revolves around ensuring that its actions respect and celebrate life, by engaging people and communities and by constantly evolving and improving its practices.
Some examples of Biohabitats’ work include performing ecological baseline studies, using geographic information systems, conducting focus groups, ecological modeling, ecological restoration, landscape management, invasive species management and stormwater management. The company has won several awards for its exemplary work, including three this year: The Texas ASLA Honor Award for Planning & Analysis, the Texas ASLA Merit Award for Residential Design Constructed and the Texas ACEC Engineering Excellence Silver Award for Water Resources.
Biohabitats and the Mississippi River Delta
Years of building canals through Louisiana’s wetlands for fossil fuel extraction have contributed to major ecological problems throughout the Mississippi River Delta. During canal construction, soil was piled up in mounds on the sides of waterways, creating opportunities for invasive species, such as the Chinese tallow tree (Sapium sebiferum), to move in and disrupt the surface flow of fresh water. Kevin Heatley, a senior scientist at Biohabitats, works on restoring the wetlands of Louisiana. In a recent OnEarth Magazine article, Mr. Heatley described the Chinese tallow trees as “biological pollution.” In order to fix the environmental damage caused by these canals, they must be filled in with dirt and the invasive trees extracted, thus creating habitat for native species and restoring the natural flow of water and sediment in the wetlands.
The Barataria Preserve is one of the wetland areas that were disrupted by canal construction. It is a 20,000-acre forest and marsh that is part of the Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve. Located south of New Orleans, it is part of the greater Mississippi River Delta region. Biohabitats is working with the National Park Service to repair damage to the landscape and restore healthy marsh ecology by removing invasive tree cover, placing excavated soil back in the canals, preserving native trees, restoring native soil levels to where they were before the canals and allowing the free flow of water and recolonization of native marsh species in the area.
“The backfilling of canals is one of those rare restoration initiatives where the results and gratification are almost instantaneous,” said Heatley. To date, Biohabitats has restored over five linear miles of marsh within the preserve, eradicated the invasive Chinese tallow trees, allowed the natural free flow of water and created habitat for native vegetation.
“I work across the United States on restoration projects and our work in the Barataria Preserve is something that I am particularly proud of,” said Heatley.
There are over 10,000 miles of exploratory canals in coastal Louisiana, so these five restored miles are just a start. Hopefully, the passage of the RESTORE Act will lead to many more successful restoration opportunities like this one.
- Building a Restoration Economy: Environmental Restoration = Economic Restoration
- Duke University report: Restoring the Gulf Coast: New Markets for Established Firms [PDF]
- Duke University report: Restoring Gulf Oyster Reefs: Opportunities for Innovation [PDF]
- Walton Foundation report: Job Creation from Gulf Coast Wetlands Restoration [PDF]
By Scott Madere, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana
If it’s one thing we can count on at the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL), it’s the hard work and enthusiasm of our volunteers. Since our Community Based Restoration Program was created in 2000, more than 8,000 volunteers have joined us on the front lines of our coast, directly restoring 3,600 acres of wetlands.
Next week marks a new chapter in CRCL volunteer history as we take on quite possibly our biggest project ever. On May 14, 17, 18 and 19, CRCL volunteers will plant nearly 40,000 plants along newly constructed marsh terraces to help prevent further erosion and to stabilize the soil in these newly-created marsh features.
So what is a marsh terrace? Simply put, marsh terraces are earthen barriers created to reduce the impact of wind and waves on marsh that is under threat of severe erosion. They are often arranged in patterns where the terraces overlap each other to diffuse wave action on the shoreline.
For the past year, CRCL, the Rainey Alliance and the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority of Louisiana have been constructing terraces to protect the fragile wetlands of Christian Marsh. All totaled, CRCL and its partners have placed 25,000 linear feet of terraces. That’s 83 football fields of coastal barrier for Christian Marsh! But just like any earth feature, these terraces are themselves vulnerable to wave action and wind erosion.
That’s where you come in.
The planting activities we have scheduled for the week of May 14 are designed to bolster these terraces and hold them in place. We need as many volunteers as we can to set plants into the terraces and strengthen their protective ability.
As an added bonus, the terraces and the plants that grow on them will help form additional habitat for an area that is lush with wildlife, particularly migratory waterfowl. If you have never been to Christian Marsh, it is a virtual paradise for ducks, herons, ibises, roseate spoonbill and brown pelicans. Your volunteer day takes place in one of the most beautiful areas of Louisiana marsh. It’s a beautiful place worth saving.
Additional support for this project comes from Cargill Dicing Technology, Coypu, NOAA and Restore America’s Estuaries.
The Rainey Alliance is a restoration partnership comprised of McIlhenny Company, the National Audubon Society, Sagrera Estates and Vermilion Corporation.No Comments
This post was originally published on the National Wildlife Federation's Wildlife Promise blog.
By Amanda Moore, National Wildlife Federation’s Coastal Louisiana Organizer in New Orleans
What would you do if, in one day, you lost everything? I’m not just talking about your personal possessions; I’m talking about your entire community — your church, your grocery store, your school. The folks you meet in the video below, Warrenetta Banks and John Taylor, have lived out this scenario every day since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005 and have chosen to respond with passion and dedication to recovery — advocating for smart, green urban planning on one side of the levee and a healthy wetland ecosystem on the other side of the levee.
Warrenetta and John are both lifelong residents of the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans. In the years since the catastrophic flooding, they’ve helped their community recover to be one of the “greenest” in the nation — solar panels, community gardens, and LEED certified homes are typical encounters as you walk down the street. That’s on one side of the levee.
Residents like Warrenetta and John understand all too well that the wetland ecosystem on the other side of the levee is critical to their future and safety. Healthy wetlands serve as a buffer to storm surges and winds and help the levees do their job to protect communities. National Wildlife Federation is one organization working closely with the Lower Ninth Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development (where Warrenetta and John work) to plan and gain funding for restoration of the 400-acre cypress swamp bordering the community (featured in the video) as well as the entire 58,000 acres wetland ecosystem the swamp is connected to, which once buffered much of the Greater New Orleans area from storms and provided important wildlife habitat.
Without healthy wetlands, coastal communities like the Lower Ninth Ward remain very vulnerable to disasters. Urgent funding is needed for restoration. The RESTORE Act, legislation now making its way through the U.S. Congress, will use a portion of Clean Water Act penalties from the BP disaster to fund projects that will restore Gulf Coast ecosystems, including wetlands that protect communities and provide critical habitat for gulf wildlife. Right now, you can make a difference in the future of the Gulf Coast. Learn more about the RESTORE Act and share your voice!No Comments
Shannon is the deputy director for the Mississippi River Delta Restoration and Resilience Project at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). Working closely with the senior director, Shannon focuses on improving strategic and tactical effectiveness of the EDF team. She works on setting team goals, objectives and strategies; translating those into work plans; and evaluating progress to ensure timely, high-quality products. She manages staff scientists, policy analysts and consultants to solve complex problems and execute tasks.
Shannon is no stranger to flood risk reduction and environmental restoration. Much of her 27 years experience, including 11 years as a senior executive, involved developing and implementing national policy, managing federal water and environmental programs, and solving multifaceted issues.
"Throughout my federal career, I have worked at the intersection of water resources and environmental protection. I joined EDF to address these issues from another perspective and to use my skills, knowledge, contacts and creativity to secure a robust future for the Mississippi River Delta," said Shannon. "This region is so important to the cultural, biological and economic integrity of our nation. We need to implement wiser approaches now to ensure the delta continues to provide diverse, valuable services for generations well into the future."
Prior to EDF, Shannon worked at the Department of Defense, guiding development and implementation of its Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan. Most relevant to her Mississippi River Delta work, Shannon worked at the Bureau of Reclamation, managing research and policy programs addressing environmental, water supply and energy challenges, and for several years, she worked on the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration. Shannon served as the deputy director of the Interagency Floodplain Management Review Committee, formed by the White House in the wake of the 1993 Midwest floods, to address national policy and program implementation issues related to flooding and flood risk management. Before that, Shannon served as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s national expert on federal water resources programs, served as EPA’s liaison to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and Federal Emergency Management Agency, and led EPA’s oversight of National Environmental Policy Act compliance by federal water and energy agencies. Early in her career, Shannon worked on coastal and water resource projects as a district ecologist for the Corps. Not one for idle hands, Shannon also chairs the Environment and Energy Conservation Commission for Arlington County, Va.No Comments
Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL) is a non-profit advocacy organization established in 1988 to unite business interests, scientists, landowners, national and local conservation groups, local governments, hunters, anglers and a broad spectrum of concerned citizens in a shared mission of restoring and protecting a sustainable coastal Louisiana.
CRCL seeks to hire a Stakeholder Engagement Coordinator to coordinate three distinct stakeholder engagement initiatives designed to build support for comprehensive restoration of the Mississippi River Delta region. The Stakeholder Engagement Coordinator will work closely with staff at the Environmental Defense Fund and National Wildlife Federation to establish relationships with key stakeholders, share scientific and technical information with targeted stakeholders and integrate stakeholder needs and concerns into the planning and implementation of coastal restoration projects.
- Prepare and plan CRCL stakeholder meetings
- Coordinate three pilot stakeholder engagement initiatives between collaborating organizations with the ability to identify and leverage synergies
- Develop stakeholder relationships, trust and issue knowledge in targeted areas
- Integrate stakeholder engagement project results into state and federal restoration project development
- Create and track project metrics for progress reporting
- Compile lessons learned from pilot initiatives to create successful models for future engagement
- Undergraduate degree or equivalent experience is required. A background in social sciences or communication is preferred
- In depth knowledge of stakeholders and constituencies in coastal Louisiana is required. Technical knowledge of coastal dynamics is preferred
- Proven ability to manage, organize and coordinate efforts internally and across multiple organizations
- Exceptional interpersonal skills, including conflict resolution and consensus building.
- Ability to work collaboratively as well as independently
- Effective and clear communication skills with the specific ability to explain complex information in simple terms
Salary: $40,000.00 to $50,000.00 depending on experience. Health and retirement benefits provided.
Term: 2 years
How to Apply: Interested candidates should submit a cover letter detailing your interest in the position, plus a resume, brief writing sample and two references. Materials should be sent by email or post to Amy Tyrrell at email@example.com or 6160 Perkins Rd., Suite 225, Baton Rouge, La. 70808 no later than May 6, 2012.No Comments
Brian Moore is legislative director of the National Audubon Society (Audubon). Based in Washington, he oversees the legislative operations of Audubon, focusing on ecosystem restoration, agriculture, budget, and appropriations legislation.
Before joining Audubon, Brian was legislative director of the Alaska Wilderness League, where he helped spearhead the conservation community's efforts to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil and gas development. Prior to that, Brian spent two years at the Brookings Institution, focusing his attention on Congress and its relationship with other branches of government and lobbying institutions, as well as the federal budget and appropriations processes.
Brian served in the Clinton administration from 1998-2001 in the Office of Legislative Affairs for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service, representing the USDA's conservation programs with Congress.No Comments