Located in the heart of South America is the world’s largest wetland that has not been significantly modified by humans, the Pantanal. The Pantanal is often referred to as South America’s biggest biodiversity star. However, it is also one of the continent’s best-kept secrets, often overshadowed by the Amazon Rainforest. This massive wetland covers an area estimated at 75,000 square miles across Bolivia, Paraguay, and (mostly) Brazil. The Pantanal is home to over 4,700 species of plants and animals.
The array of life in the Pantanal relies on an annual flooding cycle. When it rains, about 80 percent of the floodplain is submerged underwater; throughout the dry season the water lessens. This process is essential to nurturing a biologically diverse collection of plants and providing nutrients that the wetlands need to flourish. An area that is the size of Belgium, Switzerland, Holland, and Portugal combined needs a lot of water to guarantee that it continues to flood and a healthy ecosystem is preserved. The quality of the water is also important to maintaining a nourishing environment. Recently, human activity has been threatening this precious wetland. The Pantanal is threatened by intensive farming, deforestation, and pollution. Few signs of this situation improving are shown, and environmental issues are difficult to resolve quickly. Conservation of the biodiversity and natural resources of the Pantanal is essential.
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 May 23, we celebrated the 17th annual World Turtle Day sponsored by American Tortoise Rescue. This nonprofit organization was established in 1990 to protect all species of tortoises and turtles. They created World Turtle Day to serve as an annual observance of protecting tortoises and turtles around the world and their disappearing habitats. Wetlands that serve as habitat for turtles include shallow fresh waters, pelagic salt waters, and heavily and scarcely vegetated areas. Various species of turtles reside in every type of wetland environment.
Did You Know?
- The majority of turtles that you see on the road are females traveling to their annual nesting sites.
- Turtles like to eat dead material lying on the bottom of ponds, lakes, and wetlands. Turtles keep the water clean!
- Snapping turtles rarely snap at humans in water. They do not like the way people smell or taste.
- If you are helping a turtle cross the road, be sure to move the turtle in the same direction it was originally headed. DO NOT turn it back around! It is likely it will try to cross the road again.
- If you touch a turtle, it is important that you wash your hands thoroughly. Turtles may carry salmonella.
How to Protect Turtles?
- Avoid walking or driving on sandy areas where turtles are nesting.
- Create a “no wake zone” to reduce damage to shoreline wetland habitats and stop the removal of plant materials.
- Do not remove turtles from their natural habitats.
What Can You Do?
- You can put signs and small barriers around nesting sites and wetlands that are on your property.
- You can contact local programs to help pay for habitat restoration in your area.
- You can add beneficial features to turtle habitat by planting native plants to buffer wetlands and turtle nesting areas. This will attract frogs, snails, insects, and other species that turtles eat.
On April 1st residents of Lafourche Parish and places farther afield had a sunny and windy day to celebrate the 4th Annual Leeville Art & Heritage Festival in Golden Meadow, LA. Organized by Launch Leeville, this festival works to highlight changes in the landscape and community around Leeville as processes like subsidence, erosion, and sea level rise convert land to water. Staff from the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act, and other exhibitors such as the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, were present to talk about the causes of land loss and options for protecting and restoring what remains. In addition to live music, craft vendors, and a shrimp boulette competition, festival-goers could learn about coastal restoration projects, see Houma basket weaving demonstrations, and participate in a fishing rodeo.
Leeville sits along Bayou Lafourche and Louisiana Rt. 1, two geographic features that have witnessed a number of CWPPRA projects, from the West Belle Pass Headland Restoration (TE-23) project, which created new marsh and stabilized shorelines to the south of Port Fourchon, to the GIWW to Clovelly Hydrologic Restoration (BA-02) project, which increased freshwater availability to prevent higher salinity levels which could damage local vegetation. Another CWPPRA project, East Leeville Marsh Creation and Nourishment (BA-194), is currently in engineering & design and would provide increased southeastern protection for Leeville from weather and tides. Preserving the livelihoods and heritage of small communities like Leeville requires both protecting their physical setting and giving them the time and space to develop strategies for a changing future.
The Louisiana Environmental Education Commission, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and the Louisiana Environmental Education Association hosted the 20th Environmental Education State Symposium on February 3-4, 2017 at the Embassy Suites by Hilton in Baton Rouge, La. The theme of this year’s symposium was “protecting Louisiana’s endangered species.”
The Louisiana Environmental Education Commission (LEEC) provides environmental education news from across Louisiana, including information on environmental education programs, workshops, and grant opportunities. The state symposium furnished opportunities for formal and non-formal environmental educators from Louisiana and surrounding states to meet and share teaching techniques as well as multiple concurrent sessions for various topics and grade levels. Keynote speaker Dr. Jessica Kastler, Coordinator of Program Development at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory’s Marine Education Center, used individual cases of endangered species to engage the audience in explorations of the process of science while cultivating environmental stewardship. In addition to the keynote speech, presenters in 15 concurrent sessions provided lesson demonstrations, hands-on workshops, and/or exemplary programs. The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act Public Outreach Staff was among exhibitors with a multitude of materials to assist teachers of all grade levels in furthering their students’ knowledge in environmental education and coastal protection.
Are you aware of CWPPRA’s Programmatic Benefits?
- Proven Track Record of Project Construction– Over 25 years, 210 approved projects benefiting more than 1,344 square miles (800,000 acres); 108 constructed (16 under construction).
- Responsive– CWPPRA projects are constructed in 5 to 7 years.
- Interagency Approach– Cost-effective projects developed by an experienced interagency team (5 Federal, 1 State agencies).
- Community Involvement– Local governments and citizens contribute to project nominations and development.
- Predictable Funding– Federal Sport Fish & Boating Safety Trust Fund funding to 2021 through fishing equipment taxes and small engine fuel taxes.
- Fiscally Responsible– CWPPRA projects are cost-effective.
- Science Based– CWPPRA’s monitoring program (Coastwide Referencing Monitoring System-CRMS). Demonstration projects “field-test” restoration techniques for future restoration project success.
- Complementary– CWPPRA projects complement other large-scale restoration efforts (i.e., Coastal Impact Assistance Program, State Master Plan, BP DWH Oil Spill Early Restoration and the RESTORE Act).
CWPPRA has been and will continue to be the primary source of practical experience, learning, and agency expertise regarding coastal restoration in Louisiana.
What are the strengths and the successes of CWPPRA?
- Addresses the urgent need for on-the-ground coastal restoration in Louisiana
- Constructs coastal restoration projects that protect critically impaired wetland areas
- To date, has constructed 108 projects with a total of 152 active projects that will protect and restore approximately 100,000 acres of land
- Has 25 years of experience in coastal restoration, acting as the State’s only consistent Federal restoration funding authority
- Upon completion, projects provide benefits which meet local and state restoration planning goals
- Initiated and supports the State’s only coastwide monitoring program to evaluate the efficacy of restoration projects on an ecosystem scale
- Serves as the foundation for the development of restoration science and identification of project needs that have become the platform for other restoration funding programs
Visit the CWPPRA project page to learn more about successful projects in your area.