For hundreds of years, residents of coastal Louisiana have relied upon the natural tropical storm and hurricane protections provided by its environment. Barrier islands provided a first line of defense helping to break up waves produced by storms. Mile upon mile of coastal wetlands served as a second line of defense helping to absorb storm surge and provide much needed friction to slow winds. Communities were built along a third line of defense–natural ridges, the high ground along bayous built up by the deposition of river sediments. Land loss has nearly stolen these protections, forcing residents to rely almost solely on manmade protections which are often not up to the task.
We must restore the natural protections if we are to save our coastal communities. Without natural protections to work in conjunction with manmade protections, it is only a matter of time before our bayou communities cease to be.
We have the ability to turn the tide. We can rebuild our barrier islands. We can harvest sediment to rebuild our coastal forests and marshes. We can build river diversions to provide fresh water to nourish our wetlands without destroying communities in the process.
We can save our Great American Delta. The cost will be high. There is no easy way around it. But what will be the cost if we don’t make this investment for the good of our entire nation?
For the Nation
There is no question that the Louisiana coast is a working coast–its residents laboring tirelessly to feed and fuel the nation.
Some thirty percent of our nation’s oil and natural gas is supplied by Louisiana. And while the US as a whole benefits from these natural resources, our coastal environment has taken a toll in man’s efforts to harvest them. Dredging for oilfield navigation and laying pipelines, as well as the extraction of these resources, has led to the loss of tremendous areas of our coastal wetlands and left much of what remains in tatters.
In addition to the coast’s contribution to our energy needs, the brave fishermen of the bayous help to fill our plates with some of the most delicious seafood on the planet. Thirty percent of our domestic fisheries in the continental United States come from the unbelievably productive, yet fragile, estuaries of south Louisiana.
And don’t forget our hardworking ports. Five of the nation’s top fifteen shipping ports by tonnage are manned by the industrious workforce of coastal Louisiana.
For Culture and Heritage
Food, music, dance, art, language, customs, traditions, family. There is no place on earth like south Louisiana.
People have called Louisiana home and lived off its rich resources for thousands of years. Native American, French, Cajun French, Spanish, German, Isleno, Filipino, African, Italian, English, Irish, Czech, Hungarian, Lebanese, Vietnamese, Laotian, Chinese, Thai, Croatian and a host of other cultures have come together to give south Louisiana as amazing a flavor as a “down the bayou” gumbo. Like gumbo, diverse ingredients from all over the world come together but retain their unique identity and flavor.
And just as we love our gumbo, we love our state. In fact, nearly eighty percent of the current residents of Louisiana are native born residents–the highest rate of any state in the nation.
Where we live, work and play is part of our identity. Sustaining our culture is dependent on saving our coast.
Laissez les bon temps roulez!
For Fish and Wildlife
While you may not find wildlife in coastal Louisiana that you can’t find elsewhere, it’s doubtful that you will find such an abundance of fish, fowl, mammals, amphibians and reptiles (and yes, insects) in the continental United States.
Millions of birds spend part or all of their life cycle in south Louisiana. Our barrier islands, headland beaches, forested wetlands and upland forests provide critical shelter and food sources for migratory birds, many of which are rare, threatened and endangered species.
Coastal wetlands provide critical estuarine nursery grounds for numerous fish and shellfish.
Our biologically rich and ecologically productive ecosystems offer world class hunting and fishing opportunities, legitimately earning Louisiana the title of “Sportsman’s Paradise.”
All of this is at stake should we allow our fragile wetlands to be taken by the sea and let industry destroy our environment.
For the Future
The future of coastal Louisiana is uncertain.
Will we do what it takes to save our Great American Delta for our children and grandchildren and generations to come? Or will we let it slip quietly, inch by inch, into the sea?
Will we make the sacrifices necessary in our generation so that future generations can live and prosper in a healthy and sustainable coastal Louisiana? Will we take up the charge to save an amazing culture and heritage to ensure that our grandchildren can experience it and carry it on with their own families and communities instead of simply reading about it in history books?
The future of coastal Louisiana is up to us. There is not a moment to waste. This is not a problem that we can leave to future generations to solve. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. And it’s “getting gone” at an alarming rate.
Let’s get going so that some day we can celebrate why we saved coastal Louisiana rather than advocating why we should.