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.
World Wetlands Day is designated as a day to raise global awareness about the value and benefits of wetlands for both humanity and the planet; it is celebrated every February 2nd. Wetlands provide an immense number of benefits to not only the surrounding areas via protection, but also thriving aquaculture industries and commodities on both a national and international level. Healthy wetlands play a vital role in sustaining life and acting as natural safeguards in extreme weather events through disaster risk reduction.
The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act participated in the appreciation of wetlands by attending the World Wetlands Day Celebration on February 2nd, 2017 at the Bayou Terrebonne Waterlife Museum in Houma, La. The South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center hosted its 8th annual celebration by inviting third grade students from St. Matthews Episcopal School and Honduras Elementary, as well as sixth grade students from St. Francis de Sales Catholic School, totaling 185 local students, to learn about different aspects of wetlands. The CWPPRA Public Outreach Staff informed students about the relevance of wetlands by drawing connections between four different yet familiar types of wetlands and seafood, previous hurricane activity in the region, industry jobs, and wetland functionality. In order to do so, the CWPPRA staff incorporated the Where the Wild Things Are game to teach the students about wetland habitats and the animals living in them. This game consisted of students matching different wetland bean bag animals to the correct habitat: swamp, marsh, barrier island, and ocean. Where the Wild Things Are provides an opportunity for students to understand the connections between different wetland environments, recognize the adaptability of some animals to more than one habitat, and identify specific characteristics of each habitat, such as vegetation.
Did you know:
CWPPRA debuted a new poster series campaign entitled “Protect Our Coast.”
Each of the four posters in the series depict a coastal related image accompanied by an explanation of how the image connects to wetlands and CWPPRA.
The state’s designated wildflower, the Louisiana iris can be found along the margins of freshwater bayous and sloughs. Having little tolerance for salt water, the Louisiana iris is one of many plant species at risk from saltwater intrusion. Channels dredged through wetlands alter the natural hydrology, resulting in increased salinity and the loss of fresh water vegetation and organisms. CWPPRA hydrologic restoration and freshwater diversion projects regulate salinity and restore the natural hydrology of wetlands, preserving the iris and many other iconic Louisiana plants and animals.
CWPPRA –The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act– is federal legislation enacted to identify, engineer and design, and fund the construction of coastal wetlands restoration projects. These projects provide for the long-term conservation of wetlands and dependent fish and wildlife populations. Projects funded by CWPPRA are cost-effective ways of restoring, protecting, and enhancing coastal wetlands. CWPPRA has a proven track record of superior coastal restoration science and monitoring techniques in Louisiana.
Louisiana accounts for over half of all commercial harvest landings in the Gulf of Mexico. Wetlands, particularly coastal marshes, play an imperative role in the life cycle of about 90% of Gulf marine species, including the blue crab. Providing a protective nursery, wetlands house an immensely diverse quantity of species that rely upon this habitat. CWPPRA aims to continue the protection and restoration of these essential habitats for wildlife, aquaculture, and fisheries.
Mangroves, which are used for nesting by Louisiana’s Brown Pelican, are threatened by the loss of Louisiana’s barrier islands. These islands are vanishing at an alarming rate due to man-made changes to coastal Louisiana, including the leveeing of the Mississippi River. Recognizing the ecological importance of barrier islands and their critical role in reducing hurricane storm surge in Louisiana, CWPPRA has played a part in the restoration of nearly every barrier island and barrier headland in Louisiana’s Barataria Basin.
Download your CWPPRA Protect Our Coast poster here! Don’t forget to spread coastal awareness by using the campaign hashtag #ProtectOurCoast!
The Louisiana Sea Grant College Program hosted its annual educational, coastal-based event, Ocean Commotion, on October 27 at the LSU Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge, La. The primary purpose of Ocean Commotion is to give students the chance to learn about and touch the products of the sea and coast—the aquatic animals, plants, and minerals—upon which Louisiana’s citizens are so dependent. In attendance were 2,138 K-8 students, 121 teachers and 139 chaperons from East Baton Rouge, Iberville, Jefferson, East Feliciana, and Assumption parishes.
The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act encourages the connection between students and the coast by providing the opportunity to become “hands-on” with activities that foster interests in and curiosity for Louisiana’s passive shoreline environments. Among the 70 exhibits from universities, non-profits, state and local governments, student clubs, science and museum centers and K-12 student exhibitors was the CWPPRA Mysterious Wetland Wonders activity. Participants were encouraged to reach inside the seven mystery boxes, read clues, and try to identify the wetland item hidden inside each box without peeking! The mystery items included a seashell, apple snail shell, oyster shell, cypress knee, Spanish moss, nutria pelt, and a magnolia seed pod. In order for future generations to effectively protect our oceans, coastlines, and wetlands, learning about the importance and benefits of each is essential.
On October 15, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hosted the 19th Annual Wild Things Festival at the Southeast Louisiana Refuge Headquarters in Lacombe, La. This exciting family-friendly event gives the community an opportunity to engage in outdoor activities while celebrating National Wildlife Refuge Week. This free public event included canoe and pontoon boat tours, hayrides, live animals, wildflower walks, kids activities, bird house building, live music, and a youth wildlife art competition.
The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act Public Outreach staff was among the 40 exhibitors providing hands-on activities to encourage knowledge of the Louisiana outdoors. In order to accurately portray the importance of aquatic, coastal regions, the CWPPRA staff utilized an ocean character, Sid the Restoration Squid, whose six unique legs each represented a different restoration method. The six restoration methods include barrier island restorations, marsh creations, shoreline protection, hydrologic restoration, freshwater and sediment diversions, and terracing. Each leg consisted of a distinct craft material that would correspond with a restoration method, in which children would assemble and personalize their own squid. Each child’s personal squid was accompanied by an explanation guide of CWPPRA’s efforts to restore, protect, and/or create Louisiana’s wetlands.