Hunters and anglers know Louisiana’s coastal waters and wetlands. They are tied closely to the wetlands, bays and bayous and understand there are few places in the world as beautiful and bountiful. Unfortunately, they have also watched first hand as their prized fishing and hunting spots have been lost to coastal erosion and saltwater intrusion over the last 80-plus years.
Despite these strong ties, the community of sportsmen has been underrepresented among the voices advocating for the restoration and conservation of coastal Louisiana. It’s time for that to change.
LWF is partnering in the Vanishing Paradise Campaign to provide sportsmen, and all who care about sustaining Louisiana’s rich coastal ecosystems, a greater role in the restoration of coastal habitats for the benefit of present and future generations. There is no time to lose. Please lend your voice as a sportsman for the Coast.
What is at Stake?
Louisiana has long been nicknamed “Sportsman’s Paradise.” With its wide expanses of swamps, marshes, bayous, beaches, lakes and bays, coastal Louisiana is home to some of the finest fishing, hunting and other outdoor adventures in the world. Hunting, fishing and exploring the coastal environment are deeply rooted in Louisiana’s rich and celebrated culture.
Largemouth Bass, like this one caught near the Davis Pond Freshwater Diversion in St. Charles Parish, are often found in the same areas as redfish and other saltwater species in coastal Louisiana. However, saltwater intrusion into fresh and brackish marshes is steadily pushing bass habitat northward.
Ducks Unlimited estimates that as many as 10 million ducks, geese and other waterfowl and millions of other migratory and native birds spend at least part of their lives in Louisiana’s coastal marshes. The coast is also the backbone of a recreational fishing industry that welcomes anglers from around the world and has a nearly $2 billion annual impact on Louisiana’s economy.
However, these wetlands are facing a crisis that could ultimately lead to the total loss of this wonderful fishing and hunting resource. Since the early 1930’s, when levees were built to contain the Mississippi River, coastal Louisiana has lost nearly 2000 square miles of coastal wetlands, forests and barrier islands. On average, 16-25 square miles of coastal lands are lost each year. And, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 and Gustav and Ike in 2008 washed away a combined 340 square miles of vital coastal habitats.
Miles of canals and shipping channels dug by the oil and gas industry and the federal government to help navigate through coastal wetlands have also contributed to erosion and allowed saltwater to penetrate deep into coastal estuaries, killing vegetation and destroying essential habitat.
And, with additional threats to Louisiana’s coastal ecosystem like oil spills and relative sea level rise, the need to restore and protect the state’s coastal ecosystems has never been more urgent.
Healthy coastal wetlands and barrier islands not only provide essential habitats for birds, fish
Saltwater intrusion caused by man-made shipping channels and canals has caused wide spread destruction of once healthy cypress swamps and oak tree cheniers across coastal Louisiana. The area pictured above is adjacent to the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) in St. Bernard and Orleans Parish.
and other wildlife, but people as well. Nearly 2 million people live and work in Louisiana’s coastal zone. Their homes, jobs and communities will continue to be threatened by the encroaching Gulf of Mexico if nothing is done to restore this ecosystem and make coastal towns and infrastructure more resilient.
Also threatened is an economic engine that drives the nation and the region by being home to the largest port system in the world, the production of more than ¼ of America’s energy needs and the most productive commercial fishery in the lower 48 states.
Now is the time for the sportsmen and women of Louisiana and all of North America to unite in support of large-scale restoration of the coast and insist that lawmakers on the local, state and national level do what is needed to restore coastal Louisiana.
What Can Be Done?
Louisiana’s coastal lands and ecosystems can be protected and restored. The right projects must be built and they must be built sooner rather than later.
The Mississippi River created most of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands over the last several thousand years by depositing sediment and bringing freshwater and nutrients during annual
This satellite image from April 2008 provided by Louisiana State University shows the sediments and freshwater from the Mississippi River spilling into the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico rather than replenishing coastal marshes
spring flooding. But, levees containing the river and projects to improve navigation that cut off the river’s natural distribution channels have starved the wetlands and barrier islands from the nutrients and sediments essential to their survival.
Strategic diversions that can deliver sediment and curb saltwater intrusion are an essential part of any coastal restoration effort. These river diversions must be matched with projects that build marsh and barrier islands by pumping dredged sediments as well as efforts to plant native vegetation.
Changing federal policy to make the best use of the sediment dredged from Louisiana’s ports and rivers will be necessary as well. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredges approximately 60 million cubic yards of sediment from Louisiana ports and shipping channels each year. But, only about 20 percent of that material is used beneficially to build land. The rest, by law, is disposed of in the least expensive manner, usually by pumping or dumping it into the deep water of the Gulf of Mexico. That very sediment built all of South Louisiana and wasting it will ensure that South Louisiana continues to wash away.
A host of state and federal agencies and other organizations have developed plans over the last 30 years to try and reverse the trend of Louisiana’s coastal land loss. The plans have all contained a variety of small-scale barrier island and marsh restoration projects and concepts about how to reconnect the Mississippi River to its delta.
The area shown above is the site of the Mississippi River Sediment Delivery System at Bayou Dupont Project built by Louisiana and the EPA from spring 2009 until April 2010. The photo above was taken in June 2009
The above photo is at the same site in Plaquemines Parish taken in March 2010 after sediment from the Mississippi River was pumped more than five miles through a pipe to the project site, In all, more than 500 acres of new marsh were created using dredged sediment from the river.
aimed at restoring entire basins or chains of barrier islands. But, the large-scale, dedicated funding needed to build these projects has not been approved. Also, none of the projects approved in LCA has gone to construction because of the lengthy processes of project development used by the federal government.
In 2012, the state's Legislature unanimously passed the state's most comprehensive coastal master plan to date and LWF worked in coalition with other organizations to support the planning process and promote successful passage of the plan. LWF worked hard to promote passage of the RESTORE Act and continues to monitor the oil spill response, including how penalties and fines from the oil spill will be distributed and spent toward coastal restoration.
Louisiana’s coast is a vital part of both the ecological and economic health of all of America. Leaders and lawmakers across the nation must make the restoration of coastal Louisiana a top priority by dedicating the necessary funds to project construction. Continuing to let Louisiana’s coast wash away, taking with one the most productive fisheries and wildlife habitats in the world, is not an option.
LWF resolutions describing our policy initiatives related to coastal restoration can be found here.
The LWF report detailing the accomplishments of the Vanishing Paradise campaign can be found here.
What Can I Do?
Hunters, anglers and all outdoor enthusiasts have a stake in the restoration of Louisiana’s coast. Healthy coastal wetlands in Louisiana mean healthy fisheries throughout the Gulf of
Mexico and healthy waterfowl and other migratory birds.
Sportsmen across Louisiana and the nation can join in the fight by contacting their lawmakers and insisting that the restoration of coastal Louisiana be a top priority of government on all levels.
Anglers and hunters from Louisiana and all across the world can make a difference when it comes to restoring coastal Louisiana by making sure lawmakers dedicate the funding needed to build large scale restoration projects.
Laws are needed to keep pollution out of the waters of the entire Mississippi River basin. Dedicated funding streams are needed now to make sure money is available to build the larger-scale projects that can restore entire coastal basins. Policies that cause the waste of essential sediments needed to rebuild marshes and barrier islands have to be changed to require they be used beneficially.
And, the endless layers of bureaucracy that continue to be road blocks to project construction must be eliminated.
Become more aware of the issues by following legislation and the news about coastal restoration efforts. Join the discussion on Facebook.
Support organizations, like the Louisiana Wildlife Federation, that are working tirelessly to make sure Louisiana’s coast is restored and protected. Please click here to join LWF. And, invite friends and neighbors to join in the fight to save our vanishing paradise.
Sign up for updates about efforts to restore and protect Louisiana's coast. Please include your name, email address, home or office address and phone number.
Learn about the national effort to garner support from sportsmen for coastal restoration at