National American Eagle Day is observed each year on June 20th. This day is celebrated in honor of our national symbol, to raise awareness for protecting the bald eagle, to assist in the recovery of their habitat, and to educate Americans on their significance. The bald eagle can be sighted during its breeding season at nearly any wetland habitat such as seacoasts, rivers, large lakes, or marshes. You can find these eagles around large bodies of open water with an abundance of fish.
In the mid 20th century, America’s precious eagles were almost lost due to the effects of habitat destruction, poaching, and environmental negligence, specifically the contamination of food sources by the pesticide DDT. Thanks to conservation efforts of various organizations, conservationists, and protection laws – the bald eagle populations recovered. Habitats restored through CWPPRA projects aided in the delisting of our national symbol from the endangered species list in 2007. CWPPRA has protected, created, or restored approximately 97,177 acres of Louisiana’s vanishing coastal wetlands in its first 25 years. Those restored swamps, marshes, barrier islands/headlands, and associated open-water habitats provide foraging, nesting, breeding, wintering, escape cover, and nursery habitat for wildlife, in particular the American bald eagle.
On Tuesday, May 2, 2017, the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act’s Public Outreach staff participated in the annual Coastal Day at the Louisiana Legislature. This event, organized by the Coast Builders Coalition, aims to educate legislators about the tremendous effort being made to protect and restore Louisiana’s coast. Coastal Day is a key moment to communicate with and educate representatives and legislators from across the state about the value of protection and restoration of Louisiana’s coast.
The CWPPRA outreach team shared a number of publications at Coastal Day containing information regarding what CWPPRA is, the effectiveness of its projects, and the future of coastal Louisiana. In addition to distributing information and answering questions regarding CWPPRA’s completed, active, and future projects, the outreach staff attended a meeting in which Governor John Bel Edwards spoke highly of restoration efforts in Louisiana and the importance of the 2017 Coastal Master Plan. He also recognized the value of wetlands to both the state and the country, declaring his enthusiasm to move forward with the opportunity to resolve the coastal crisis and become more adept at water management. In addition to the governor, speakers including Representative Jerome Zeringue, Senator Dan Morrish, Johnny Bradberry with CPRA, and Scott Kirkpatrick with Coast Builders Coalition discussed issues affecting Louisiana’s coast. Steve Cochran with Restore the Mississippi River Delta and the Environmental Defense Fund discussed a recent poll in which a resounding 97 percent of voters agreed that Louisiana’s coastal wetlands are important to them.
Plants of the wetlands are generally known to be highly dependent upon specific conditions, such as salinity, proximity to water, and vegetation type.
While some plants are able to adapt to condition alterations, other species do not overcome change as well. However, a major threat to all wetland vegetation is hydrilla.
Hydrilla is a non-native, invasive aquatic plant that has staked its claim by out-competing native plants and obstructing waterways. Hydrilla is a submerged, perennial plant that prefers freshwater, but can tolerate up to 7% salinity. This aggressive plant is known for clogging waterways, impeding natural flow, affecting human use such as fishing and seafood harvest, and clogging intakes and municipal drinking water supplies. Hydrilla can take over an area quickly as a result of its ability to multiply rapidly using four different strategies. Regrowth of stem fragments containing at least one node into a new plant, tubers on rhizomes producing new tubers, leaf turions that settle into sediment and form a new plant, and seed dispersal are all methods of reproduction for hydrilla. Hydrilla can out-compete native plants by its ability to tolerate low and high nutrient conditions in addition to growing in low light environments. Hydrilla is also successful in out-competing other plants by growing at a rate of one inch per day until reaching the water’s surface, followed by branching out to form a mat of vegetation which blocks light to other plants.
In order to control the growth of hydrilla, salvinia weevils have been released into severely affected areas. The salvinia weevil lives exclusively on hydrilla as a food source, thus reducing growth rates to allow control of the plant. The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act is currently researching the best, most beneficial method of controlling and eradicating invasive plant species.
Keep Louisiana Beautiful (KLB) is the state’s anti-litter and community improvement organization. Affiliated with Keep America Beautiful, KLB’s mission is to “promote personal, corporate and community responsibility for a clean and beautiful Louisiana.” Founded in 2000, Keep Louisiana Beautiful’s focus in on education, enforcement, awareness, litter removal and beautification. The 39 affiliates and 23,000 volunteers improve communities and transform public spaces. Everyone knows that litter is harmful to the environment; however, knowing about the problem doesn’t solve it. In order to create a litter-free Louisiana, everyone must do their part. Keep Louisiana Beautiful provides the tools and resources needed to improve a community’s appearance and preserve Louisiana’s natural beauty.
Keep Louisiana Beautiful hosted its annual state conference on September 28-29 at the Galvez Building Conference Center in Baton Rouge, La. The conference opened with welcome messages from Tricia Farace, KLB Board Member; Kip Holden, mayor of Baton Rouge; Denise Bennet, Deputy Secretary La. Department of Environmental Quality; and Eligha Guillory, Master of Ceremonies. Following the welcome remarks was keynote speaker Dr. Wes Shultz who discussed how to bring about behavioral change in hopes of increasing sustainability efforts. The topic of recycling was heavily discussed from a variety of different perspectives including Brenda Pulley of Keep America Beautiful who spoke on reusing, reducing, and recycling. Other recycling-based presentations included Refill Not Landfill by Tammy Millican, LSU; How to Make Your Case for School Recycling by Gretchen Vanicor, ULL and Amanda Waddle; Recycling at festivals by Greg Guidroz, Bayou Vermilion District; and Eco Green Events: Integrating Sustainability into Community Events and Planning by Valerie Longa, Alabama Coastal Foundation. The final session of the first day, focused on raising money to fund KLB projects, was presented by Mike Rogers of Keep America Beautiful. The evening closed with the Everyday Heroes Award Banquet, featuring keynote speaker Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser. The conference continued the following day with an opening session by Alexandra Miller of Asakura Robinson who explained planning and tools for communities to cut down on vacancy and blight, as well as calculating the cost of blight by Cecile Caron of Keep America Beautiful. Litter was a primary focal point of the discussions during the second day of the conference with speakers such as Rick Moore, St. Tammany Parish Constable; Max Ciolino, No Waste Nola; and Susan Russell, Executive Director of Keep Louisiana Beautiful. First Lady Donna Edwards along with Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Dr. Chuck Carr Brown and Octagon Media released Louisiana’s new anti-litter slogan “Love the boot, don’t pollute”. The new slogan will be featured as a bumper sticker on all state vehicles and will be available to the public for further exposure and promotion.
The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act Public Outreach staff attended the conference as exhibitors providing information and materials to be used to educate the public on wetland and coastal restoration. Publications such as Partners in Restoration, Understanding CWPPRA, and Henri Heron’s Louisiana Wetlands were distributed in addition to numerous editions of WaterMarks and two of CWPPRA’s Protect Our Coast posters.