While there are some people who cannot spend enough time outdoors, enjoying all of nature’s gifts, there are others who need a little more motivation to get outside and seek the beauty of our outdoors. What better time for either party to embrace the outdoor spirit of America than in the month of June, Great Outdoors Month. The month kicks off with a Presidential Proclamation, which advocates for all Americans to visit the great outdoors and to protect our nation’s legacy by conserving our lands for future generations. The Proclamation discusses the numerous possibilities for Americans to explore, play, and grow together through outdoor activities. Any activities from hiking to canoeing to wildlife watching, hunting, or fishing can involve kids by being healthy, active, and energized.
More and more Americans are seeking healthy and fun outlets as ways to stay active. The outdoor recreation community is situated in an exemplary position to help people lead a healthier lifestyle by welcoming them and providing guidance on how to take advantage of the great outdoors. Wetlands provide recreational opportunities such as fishing, canoeing, hiking, bird watching, and waterfowl hunting, just to name a few. One of the largest and most avid groups of people using wetlands is waterfowl hunters. There are an estimated 3 million migratory bird hunters in the United States. This year, new studies by the recreation community will record data on the key role outdoor recreation plays in local, state, and national economies. Outdoor recreation is an economic powerhouse in our country generating nearly $887 billion in consumer spending each year and creating 7.6 million jobs. Great Outdoors Month is designed to highlight the benefits of getting involved with our great outdoors and enjoying natural resources, such as forests, parks, refuges, and other public land and waters.
Water, promoter of all life forms on Earth, is recognized today- World Water Day! In Louisiana, 47% of the state’s population resides in the coastal zone, with a majority of livelihoods reliant on water. Industries such as aquaculture, agriculture, oil and gas, and tourism depend on the sustainability and quality of Louisiana’s waters. This essential natural resource has a synergistic relationship with Louisiana’s wetlands, providing vital nourishment to fisheries, wildlife, and Louisiana’s coastal growth. Wetlands improve water quality by trapping suspended solids and filtering other pollutants. Coastal marshes filter excess nitrogen and phosphorus, thus helping to prevent algal blooms and maintaining oxygen in the water for fish and shellfish. Wetlands can retain, remove, and transform nutrients that might otherwise contribute to declining water quality. Clean water is important for healthy fish, wildlife, and humans. Water is not only a commodity, but a contributor to life… appreciate it, preserve it, and protect it!
Water is the key to life, celebrate World Water Day!
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.
An estuary is an ecosystem comprised of both the biological and physical environment, commonly located where a river meets the sea. Estuaries are inhabited by an array of plant and animal species that have adapted to brackish water—a mixture between freshwater draining from inland and salt water. One of the most expansive and productive estuaries in the world is located in the United States at the interface of the Mississippi River’s freshwater and the salt water from the Gulf of Mexico.
Estuaries have one of the highest productivity rates among ecosystems in the world; they provide an abundance of food and shelter as well as breeding and migration locations. Estuaries also provide great access for enjoyable recreational activities such as fishing. Continue your love for estuaries and contribute to their well-being by aiming to keep your estuary areas clean of trash and healthy environments for wildlife, vegetation, and others to enjoy!
Share the estuary love for Valentine’s Day! #iheartestuaries
A well-known part of Louisiana’s culture is the state’s unique cuisine and the celebrations and gatherings which surround it. During late winter and spring, Louisiana’s state crustacean, the crawfish, is at the heart of many celebrations. The crawfish, an easily recognizable icon in Louisiana’s rich history and economy, has made an important impact on the state.
The two species of crawfish harvested for commercial use are the Red Crawfish (Procambarus clarki) and White or River Crawfish (Procambarus acutus). While looking very similar, the White Crawfish has one slender and one large pincer and inhabits deeper bodies of water when compared with the Red Crawfish which has two large pincers and is commonly found in bayous, ditches, and swamps. Although the characteristic habitat location varies among the two species, most harvested boil sacks contain both Red and White Crawfish. Both species’ living environments surround wetlands and coastal regions where the aquaculture industry has skyrocketed and continues to thrive.
Crawfish are important to Louisiana’s economy, and more than 7,000 people depend directly or indirectly on the crawfish industry. Crawfish provide an abundance of jobs as they are caught by fishermen, sold, processed, distributed, and shipped, and then finally make their way to customers or onto a restaurant table. Technology has advanced the methods of harvest such that crawfish farming has developed into the largest freshwater crustacean aquaculture industry in the United States. Louisiana leads the nation in crawfish production with nearly 800 commercial fishermen harvesting from wetlands like the Atchafalaya Basin and more than 1,600 farmers harvesting in some 111,000 acres of ponds. The total impact on the Louisiana economy exceeds $300 million annually, with a combined annual yield ranging from 120-150 million pounds.
Eat more crawfish, cher!
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