Marsh Maneuvers teaches 4-H’ers about Louisiana coast

Bruce Schultz  |  8/10/2017 3:30:39 PM

(08/10/17) ABBEVILLE, La. — The 2017 LSU AgCenter Marsh Maneuvers program brought 65 youth from 21 parishes to the southern edge of Louisiana to learn about the importance of Louisiana marsh and coastal environments.

It was the 28th season of Marsh Maneuvers, a Louisiana 4-H program.

For four consecutive weeks in July, 4-H’ers from different parishes attend a five-day camp based at the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge near Grand Chenier, Louisiana, led by Mark Shirley, LSU AgCenter and Louisiana Sea Grant regional coastal specialist.

“For quite a few of the kids, particularly those from the northern parishes, this was their first venture to the coastal parishes and the Gulf of Mexico,” Shirley said. “It was their first time to hold a crab and an alligator.”

Shirley said the youth went crabbing, learned to throw a cast net, fished, observed wildlife, and learned about marine and coastal ecology.

The 4-H’ers enjoyed a variety of Louisiana seafood while at camp. “The menu included grilled shrimp, boiled crabs and fish tacos made with black drum filets,” he said.

At nearby Avery Island, the campers planted smooth cordgrass to protect shorelines from erosion. The efforts from previous Marsh Maneuvers participants were evident on the banks of the bayous around Avery Island, Shirley said.

The McIlhenny Company helped with the logistics of the marsh grass planting and treated the 4-H’ers to a tour of the Tabasco factory and the Jungle Gardens.

“Planting marsh grass for shoreline protection instilled in the students a sense of stewardship for Louisiana’s coastal wetlands,” said AgCenter extension associate Natalie McElyea-Chittenden, who works with the Youth Wetlands Program. “The whole Marsh Maneuvers experience has a lasting impact on these kids who will go back to their communities and share their knowledge of the coast with family and friends.”

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries hosted the camps at Rockefeller Refuge by providing accommodations. The refuge staff also gave the 4-H’ers a ride on an airboat and a boat ride to the beach to see the erosion taking place there. The groups saw where a shoreline protection project will be constructed later this year to slow down the wetland loss.

“The students learned about the many causes of coastal erosion and they studied the new 2017 state master plan developed by the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority,” Shirley said.

Parishes represented this year included Iberia, Jefferson Davis, Lafayette, Tangipahoa, Vermilion, East Carroll, Grant, Rapides, Winn, Avoyelles, Caldwell, Claiborne, East Baton Rouge, Lincoln, Ouachita, Sabine, Vernon, Evangeline, Iberville, St. James and St. Landry.

Marsh Maneuvers is conducted by the AgCenter 4-H program and sponsored by Louisiana Sea Grant, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the McIlhenny Company. The camp is one of the many outreach activities conducted by the AgCenter Youth Wetlands Program, which is funded by a grant from the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.

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Marsh Maneuvers campers Stevie Lejeune and Elise Jackson, both from Iberville Parish, learn about the life cycle of crabs as well as how to hold crabs without getting pinched. Photo by Bruce Schultz/LSU AgCenter

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Gabe Giffin, second from left, public information officer at Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge, explains to Marsh Maneuvers campers about the serious shoreline erosion problem on the refuge. A shoreline protection project is scheduled to be constructed later this year as part of the state master plan for coastal restoration and protection. Photo by Bruce Schultz/LSU AgCenter

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Austin Domangue and Garrett Manuel watch Mackenzie Roberie carefully hold a young alligator at Marsh Maneuvers camp at Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge. Domangue is a 4-H member in St. James Parish. Manuel and Roberie are 4-H’ers in St. Landry Parish. Photo by Bruce Schultz/LSU AgCenter

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LSU AgCenter and Louisiana Sea Grant agent Mark Shirley explains fish biology to 4-H’ers Garett Manuel and Mackenzie Roberie, of St. Landry Parish, during a Marsh Maneuvers session at Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Bruce Schultz/LSU AgCenter

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