Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act Outreach Program Educates Public about Wetlands of Louisiana

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Staff from the USGS CWPPRA participate in the 8th annual World Wetlands Day to educate school children and the public about the importance of wetlands.

This article is part of the March 2017 issue of the Sound Waves newsletter.

3 students sit on the floor watching a woman teaching about wetlands, using posters and props laid on the floor

At a celebration of World Wetlands Day, Victoria Sagrera taught students about various wetland types, including swamp, marsh, and barrier islands, and the resources and animals found in each. Photo credit: USGS.

Louisiana is home to the majority of the wetlands in the continental United States, so what better place to celebrate World Wetlands Day? On February 2, staff from the USGS Wetland and Aquatic Research Center's Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) outreach office participated in the Bayou Terrebonne Waterlife Museum and South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center's wetland-oriented festivities.

WARC staff members teach students at World Wetlands Day

USGS Wetland and Aquatic Research Center's Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) outreach office staff were on hand at the World Wetlands Day celebration hosted by the Bayou Terrebonne Waterlife Museum and South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center as local students learned about the different types of wetlands in Louisiana. Photo credit: USGS.

The eighth annual educational event in Houma, Louisiana, hosted 185 local elementary school students. USGS CWPPRA outreach staff and other participants, including staff from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program, U.S. Department of Agriculture Sugarcane Research Station, and Louisiana State University's Wildlife Hospital of Louisiana, helped guide students through activities and discussions aimed at helping them understand the importance of wetlands. USGS Wetland and Aquatic Research Center contractors Mirka Zapletal and Victoria Sagrera discussed the similarities and differences between the various wetland types found in Louisiana, such as swamp, marsh, and barrier islands, as well as the resources and animals found in each of these habitats. Students then put their knowledge to the test as they matched animals with their correct wetland habitat.

Housed in the USGS Wetland and Aquatic Research Center in Lafayette, Louisiana, the CWPPRA outreach program actively educates a variety of audiences on Louisiana's coastal wetlands year-round. The outreach program is an integral component of the federal legislation, known by its acronym CWPPRA (pronounced quip-rah), enacted in 1990 and designed to identify, prepare, and fund construction of coastal wetland-restoration projects. Since its introduction, more than 200 restoration projects have been authorized in Louisiana. USGS estimates that about 90 percent of the total wetland loss taking place in the continental U.S. is occurring in Louisiana, which has lost an estimated 25 percent of its land area since 1932. Since 1990, approximately 100,000 acres have been created and more than 355,000 acres have been enhanced with CWPPRA-funded projects.

A hand is holding a baby alligator over a table with a green cloth and other display items including a small skull

A special guest made an appearance at the 20th annual Louisiana Environmental Education Symposium where staff from the USGS Wetland and Aquatic Research Center's Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) outreach office shared materials and information with teachers. Photo credit: USGS.

The World Wetlands Day educational event is only one event of many that the CWPPRA outreach team attends each year.

On February 3 and 4, USGS staff from the CWPPRA office joined environmental educators from around Louisiana to exchange education ideas and learn about protecting the state's endangered species. Hosted by the Louisiana Environmental Education Commission, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and the Louisiana Environmental Education Association, the symposium offered short courses, lesson demonstrations, and plenary speakers to expand the range of resources available to formal and informal educators. USGS CWPPRA outreach contractors Nikki Cavalier and Mirka Zapletal provided a variety of educational materials to interested educators including the Wetlands Infographic Banner, which illustrates ecosystem functions and connectivity in wetlands, and the Henri Heron's Activity Book and WaterMarks magazine, which provide information on wetlands restoration and conservation for elementary and high school students, respectively.

In March, the outreach team offered science outreach at the Lafayette Family Adventure Day, the Audubon Zoo's annual Earth Fest in New Orleans, and the Louisiana Green Schools Youth Summit.

For more information on the CWPPRA outreach conducted by USGS staff, please visit: Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) Outreach Program.

For more information on CWPPRA, please visit: https://lacoast.gov/new/About/Default.aspx#leg.