World Turtle Day

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.

LEEC 2017

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.

Waterfowl of the Wetlands

Mallard Duck

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Known to be one of the most easily recognizable species of waterfowl, the mallard duck is majestic, distinctive, and a wintering resident of the bayou state. The mallard is one of the most common ducks in the United States. With great variation between the two mallard genders, drake or male mallards have a bright yellow bill, prominent emerald green head, and white neck-ring, followed by a chestnut colored chest and dark colored rear. The hen or female mallards have a dark colored bill and are a mottled brown color with a dark brown stripe across the eye. Both drake and hen mallards have the characteristic violet-blue speculum with black and white borders. Mallard ducks are a migrating waterfowl species that can be found in Louisiana during winter. Among the dabbling ducks, mallards are one of the latest fall migrants with one of the most extended mallardmigration periods, lasting from late summer to early winter. During their migrant stay, mallards are found in agricultural fields, shallow marshes, oak-dominated forested wetlands, and coastal inlets with aquatic vegetation. Louisiana sits in the Mississippi Flyway, North America’s greatest and most heavily-used migration corridor. Louisiana’s coastal wetlands provide habitat for more than 5 million migratory waterfowl, approximately half of the wintering duck population of the Mississippi Flyway. Now, more than ever, restoration and protection of coastal wetlands is critical; if wetlands continue to diminish, Louisiana will no longer be known as “sportsman’s paradise”.

TVFWD Annual Inspection Meeting

The Teche-Vermilion Basin Project was included in the 1966 Flood Control Act after a 1961 study by Louisiana’s Department of Public Works showed deteriorating water quality and insufficient water in Bayou Vermilion and Bayou Teche. Ground water was threatened with contamination by salt water due to lack of flow of the Teche and Vermilion Bayous. The purpose of the project is to restore the flow of water to the Teche-Vermilion basin, improve water quality through the increased flow, and prevent salt water from entering the lower parts of the basin. The increased flow is also intended to restore the water supply available for agricultural and industrial needs before the protection levees were built. The state legislature created the Teche-Vermilion Freshwater District Board of Commissioners in 1969. The Board of Commissions was charged with responsibility for the maintenance and operations of the original project of the Army Corps of Engineers, as well as major replacements.

On October 21, CWPPRA staff attended the Teche-Vermilion Fresh Water District Annual Inspection Meeting at the Teche-Vermilion Pump Station in Krotz Springs, La. The meeting began with a welcome speech from Donald Sagrera, TVFWD Executive Director. Introductions of property possession parish commissioners were made beginning with Ed Sonnier, Lafayette Parish; Donald Segura, Iberia Parish; Tommy Thibodeaux, St. Martin Parish; Mike Detraz, Vermilion Parish; and Bradley Grimmett, St. Landry Parish. A positive inspections report was given by Darrel Pontiff of Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, as well as Ted Elts of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Ed Sonnier, TVFWD Chairman, introduced Lafayette Mayor-President Joel Robideaux, who was the event’s guest speaker. The presentation continued with recognition of TVFWD staff and sponsors given by Cecil Knott, Operations Supervisor, and Alex Lopresto, TVFWD Legal Advisor. TVFWD Executive Director Donald Sagrera ended the ceremony with closing remarks.

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Wild Things Festival 2016

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.

Plants of the Wetlands

Hydrilla

hydrillaPlants 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.

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Girl Scout’s B.I.G. Event

On September 24th, nearly 1,000 Girl Scouts, their leaders and parents congregated at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, La. to participate in the Believe In Girls (B.I.G.) event-the annual gathering of girl scouts from the 23 southeast Louisiana parishes to celebrate the beginning of a new scouting year.

The event offered a day of hands-on activities and presentations showcasing organizations which foster and encourage Girl Scout involvement and education, focusing on Girl Scout Initiatives such as STEM, healthy living, financial literacy and outdoor legacy. Keynote speaker, Representative Helena Moreno of Louisiana’s 93rd District encouraged the girls to seek their own identity and take pride in being a girl. Participants were encouraged to find exhibits displaying topics of interests according to each girls’ likes for a wider range of learning experiences.

The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act’s Public Outreach staff engaged the science interests of many participants by testing their coastal landscape, wildlife, and plant knowledge through CWPPRA’s Wetland Jeopardy and Wetland Animal Tracks games. Both games connect the importance of science to the significance of coastal protection and conservation. In addition to games, CWPPRA also provided Henri Heron’s Louisiana Wetlands activity book, stickers, wetland hero coloring sheets, and a variety of different CWPPRA publications.