One of the most visible groups in the fight to restore and protect Louisiana’s vanishing coastal wetlands said today that it is ceasing operations.
The America’s Wetland Foundation worked nearly two decades on policy issues and projects addressing the issue.
“The task was to mobilize Louisiana citizens and elevate this issue to a top priority, and this was accomplished tenfold,” said foundation board Chairman King Milling, who is also chairman of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Coastal Protection and Restoration.
The foundation was created in 2002 in response to then-Governor Mike Foster’s call to action. Recommendations by a state task force on the need to broaden public awareness of the land loss crisis in Louisiana and support good public policy to address it led America’s Wetland to develop the Campaign to Save Coastal Louisiana.
Its awareness campaign helped embed the fact that Louisiana was “losing a football field of land each hour” into the public vernacular. The group has received more than 60 national and international awards for public awareness, partnerships, media, communications, print, broadcast and electronic advertising that took the message to Washington and around the world.
“Once Hurricane Katrina hit, the foundation had established coastal wetland loss in the media’s mind,” said Sidney Coffee, then director of Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority and later senior adviser to the foundation. “The value of coastal wetlands became part of the story when before AWF’s ongoing campaign, the relationship of healthy wetlands to community resiliency was pretty much unknown.”
In 2011, America’s Wetland hosted 11 leadership hearings across the Gulf Coast to introduce the concept of resiliency in 2011, an idea that now resonates with the government and the private sector, the group’s leader say. The hearings resulted in a study, funded by Entergy, that assessed the threat of rising seas to roads and other infrastructure in every Gulf Coast ZIP code.
In all, the foundation has led more than 50 forums and conferences, including one of the latest in January at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux. Many of the ideas discussed have been incorporated into Louisiana’coastal restoration efforts.
America’s Wetland says it helped harness more than 70,000 volunteer hours in cooperation with AmeriCorps. Its projects included one that bolstered the banks of the Intracoastal Waterway in Lafourche Parish to slow erosion and increase waterfowl habitat. Last year, the group helped sponsor a three-part project that planted more than 30,000 trees to help restore a historic cypress forest in the state-owned Pointe-aux-Chenes Wildlife Management Area. The trees will help hold together about 100 acres of wetlands battered by saltwater intrusion and erosion.
Most recently, the foundation began work on a system that will certify communities that have taken concrete steps to reduce the effects of rising seas associated with climate change.
“It is gratifying to reach this milestone and sunset,” said foundation Managing Director Val Marmillion, a Houma native. “AWF can conclude its work by offering hope and confidence to those who will prepare coastal communities for future generations. …
“We have always known that the path to right the wrongs that have caused coastal land loss and climate change, resulting in sea level rise, must include treating Mother Nature with a kinder hand. … The hard work ahead will require the disruption of old ways and the embracing of an era that values our natural resources and the innovation to meet the biggest challenge of our lives.”
– Executive Editor Keith Magill can be reached at 857-2201 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter