March 2008 Newsletter

This month, the America’s WETLAND Foundation focuses on education. With the launch of its new Art, Photo, and Essay contest, the development of popular social networking sites, and the addition of new features for the Estuarians, America’s WETLAND is reaching out to our nation’s youth. Given the consequences of coastal land loss to our nation’s economy, ecology, and energy sustainability, the next generation will be most dramatically impacted by the disappearance of our wetlands. In the last fifty years, Louisiana has lost approximately 1,500 square miles of land. Therefore, to prevent continuing loss in the next fifty years, the Foundation is encouraging America’s youth to join the fight to save Louisiana’s coast.

Keep Your Eye on the Prize

The America’s WETLAND Foundation has launched its “Keep Your Eye on the Prize” Art, Photo, and Essay Contest. Open to Louisiana students in grades 4-12, the contest encourages the state’s youth to use their imaginations to help save the wetlands.

In February, contest posters and entry requirements were sent to the principals of every public and private school in the state. Posters were also sent to local arts councils, museums, and photography clubs. The contest website, www.americaswetland/contest, has already received several entries from students hoping to be one of the nine who win grants towards wetland restoration projects at their schools.

The competition is being coordinated with schools, the America’s WETLAND Conservation Corps, and the LSU AgCenter, which sponsors Youth Wetlands Week. From March 31 to April 4, teachers are encouraged to incorporate Wetlands Week lessons about the Louisiana coast into their curriculum. As the students learn more about the importance of their disappearing coast, Keep Your Eye on the Prize will allow them to enter their schoolwork or independent projects depicting the impact of the wetlands on their own lives.

America’s WETLAND Opens Social Networking Sites

This month, The America’s WETLAND Foundation created pages on the nation’s most popular social networking sites. The Foundation’s Facebook and MySpace pages describe the potential consequences of the state’s coastal land loss, feature regular Campaign updates, and invite viewers to publish online discussions about coastal restoration.

America’s WETLAND also features a variety of campaign videos on YouTube. The Foundation’s page links to the America’s Energy Coast (AEC) briefing video, which describes the collaborative work of the four Gulf Coast energy-producing states to redefine sustainability, as well as to several of the Foundation’s public service announcements.

For years, the Estuarians, America’s WETLAND’s loveable mascot krewe, have carried the message of coastal land loss to young audiences. Noted for their appearances in Mardi Gras parades and at cultural events across the nation, they arrived at their newest destination this month: the internet. The Foundation created an interactive site for the Estuarians online, which allows children to learn wetland facts, be introduced to each individual character, and request a visit from an Estuarian at a public event in their hometowns.

Brown Pelican Population Restored

Brown pelicans, native to Louisiana and inspiration for America’s WETLAND mascot Pierre the Estuarian, have regained a healthy population level in Louisiana. Federal authorities proposed that Louisiana’s state bird be removed from the endangered species list. Find this and other facts about the Estuarians and their habitat here. Welcome home, Pierre!

America’s WETLAND Publishes New Coastal Facts

In February, the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources compiled a new coastal fact sheet. Included below, the fact sheet includes statistics about the wetlands’ contributions to the nation’s industries, trade, ecological habitats, and more.

Historical Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana – Louisiana has lost 1,900 square miles of land since the 1930’s (Barras et al. 1994,Barras et al. 2003, Dunbar et al. 1992). Currently, Louisiana has 30% of the total coastal marsh and accounts for 90% of the coastal marsh loss in the lower 48 states (Dahl 2000, Field et al. 1991, USGS 2003).

Current Rate of Coastal Land Loss – Between 1990 and 2000, wetland loss was approximately 24 square miles per year – that is the equivalent of approximately one football field lost every 38 minutes. The projected loss over the next 50 years, with current restoration efforts taken into account, is estimated to be approximately 500 square miles (Barras et al. 2003). According to land loss estimates, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita transformed 217 square miles of marsh to open water in coastal Louisiana (USGS 2006).

Population Living in the Coastal Parishes – In 2006, over 2 million residents – more than 47% of the state’s population according to U.S. Census estimates – lived in Louisiana’s coastal parishes (U.S. Census Bureau 2007). The coastal zone covers approximately 14,913 square miles, of which 6,737 square miles is water and 8,176 square miles is land (LOSCO 2005).

Louisiana Energy Facts – Among the 50 states, the following are some statistics for Louisiana’s Primary Energy Production for 2006: including Outer Continental Shelf production, Louisiana ranks 1st in crude oil and 2nd in natural gas production; excluding Outer Continental Shelf production, Louisiana ranks 4th in crude oil and 5th in natural gas production (LDNR 2007).

Waterborne Commerce – In 2005, Louisiana’s coastal wetlands provided storm protection for ports that carried 457 million tons of waterborne commerce; accounting for 18% of all waterborne commerce in the United States. Five of the top fifteen largest ports in the United States are located in Louisiana (USACE 2007).

Commercial Fishing – In 2006, Louisiana commercial landings exceeded 844 million pounds with a dockside value of $202 million; accounting for approximately 21% of the total catch by weight in the lower 48 States (USDOC 2007).

Recreational Fishing – Annual expenditures related to non-commercial fishing in Louisiana can amount to between $895 million (LDWF 2005) and $1.2 billion (Gentner et al. 2001).

Hunting – In 2003, hunting-related expenditures in Louisiana amounted to $599 million (LDWF 2005).

Wildlife-Watching – In 2003, expenditures related to wildlife-watching in Louisiana amounted to $175 million (LDWF 2005).

Fur Harvest – The 2005-2006 fur harvest in Louisiana’s coastal wetlands generated approximately $1.17 million (LDWF 2006).

Alligator Harvest – In 2003, the Louisiana alligator harvest was valued at approximately $38 million (LDWF 2005).

Waterfowl – Louisiana’s coastal wetlands provide habitat for approximately 1.8 million migratory waterfowl (LDWF 2008).

In Other News

Master Plan Wins NAEP Environmental Excellence Award

The National Association of Environmental Professionals announced the winners of its 2008 Environmental Excellence Award. This year’s President’s Environmental Excellence Award will be presented to the creators of Louisiana’s Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast. Representatives of Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority will accept the award in San Diego on March 26th.

Upcoming Events

Hurricane on the Bayou

Opening March 1st, Pennington Planetarium’s new large-format film takes audiences beyond news headlines and deep into the soul-stirring heart of Louisiana before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina. Unfolding against the poignant backdrop of the most costly natural disaster in America’s history, Hurricane on the Bayou features state-of-the art, computer-generated special effects depicting Katrina’s fury. The film follows four musicians as they uncover the electrifying culture of New Orleans, explore the beautiful, alligator-filled bayous on airboats, recount their personal stories of Katrina, and bring focus to the rapidly disappearing wetlands that are New Orleans’ first line of defense against deadly storms. Although these wetlands are vanishing at the astonishing rate of one acre every 30 minutes, the very future of the city depends on their preservation. The film is showing at the Irene W. Pennington Planetarium in Baton Rouge. General Admission + Large-format Film Adults $8, Children & Seniors $7 Member Admission + Large-format Film Adults $5, Children & Seniors $4.

Hurricane Happening

On March 9th, bring the kids to meet Pierre the Pelican, Captain Eddy the Eagle, Reed the Alligator, and other members of the Estuarians.. Everyone will enjoy the obstacle course focusing on the Louisiana Black Bear’s habitat, an activity integrating math and science, an exhibit illustrating hurricane-related concepts, the American Red Cross family-preparedness exhibit, an EBR Parish Library exhibit, a guest speaker on coastal wetland protection, and more! Hurricane Happening is free with regular museum admission. Children three years of age and under are not permitted in the planetarium theater. The event will take place at the Louisiana Art and Science Museum at 100 River Road South in Baton Rouge.

EarthFest

On March 16th, Audubon Zoo will spread the message of conservation with its annual Earth Fest celebration. Louisiana bands, regional folk artists, and environmental groups including America’s WETLAND will help show how the ways in which small contributions by individuals can help save our precious environment. And, for the younger attendees, the Estuarians will be available for photographs and to deliver fact-filled Estuarian Activity Guides.

National Environmental Excellence Award

On March 26th in San Diego, California, The National Association of Environmental Professionals will present the President’s Environmental Excellence Award to Louisiana’s Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Gulf Coast (detailed above).

Big Bass Fishing Rodeo and Fishtival

On March 29th, bring the kids to the 61st annual Fishtival to meet the Estuarians. Back from a two-year hiatus after the hurricane, the Fishtival will offer a Fishing Rodeo from 5 am to 11am. Additionally, it will host a relaxing and educational day with a community event to attract anyone interested in learning about fishing and the environment. The community event will begin in New Orleans City Park at 9 am.