What are we going to do about our disappearing coastline?
This is the question everyone was asking after Hurricane Katrina. In 2005 the state created the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority of Louisiana (CPRA) to develop, implement and enforce a comprehensive plan to protect and restore our coast.
Every 2.7 miles of wetlands absorbs 1 foot of storm surge during hurricanes. Our coastal communities cannot exist without this buffer. Louisiana’s wetlands protect our neighbors living on the coast along with five of the nation’s top 15 ports and habitats that grow 75 percent of all commercially harvested fish species. Without restoration, there will be devastating consequences for our coastal residents.
Thanks to the CPRA, the 4-H Youth Wetlands Program was created with the intention of developing the next generation of coastal stewards. This is accomplished through the distribution of wetland lessons and supplies to teachers throughout the state and through the activities of outreach staff. The 4-H YWP has been funded since 2007 and has reached over 1 million students statewide.
“My students love the hands-on lessons,” said teacher Charlotte Rizzo.
Being immersed in a wetland for a daylong field trip is a totally new experience for many kids regardless of where they live. 4-H Youth Wetlands camps give kids the opportunity to put classroom knowledge into action. Each summer more than 600 kids spend a week exploring wetland issues and challenges.
“Words can’t describe how awesome this camp has been,” said Cameron Horton from Jackson Parish. “I have met several new friends and learned a huge amount of information. We have learned about the marsh and how erosion and coastal land loss can and will affect Louisiana along with the rest of the United States. As well as having fun while learning all of these things, I don’t think I’ll ever forget the things I learned and the people I have met.”
Every year students who have gone through the program decide to major in a degree related to wetlands and natural resources. Many are now working for the CPRA or other partner organizations. The CPRA grant allows about 85,000 students a year to learn about wetlands and become advocates. Growing educated citizens and future decision-makers will continue to be our mission.
Protection and restoration of our coast will be an ongoing process, so exposing students to these unique experiences is invaluable because they will be part of the solution to create a healthy, sustainable coast.
4-H Marsh Maneuvers participants plant smooth cord grass during a coastal restoration stewardship project near Grand Chenier, Louisiana.
This article appears in the Louisiana 4-H 2019 Annual Report.
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture