You can help

Each of us has some effect on our wetlands. Each of us can help save them. Our contributions may seem small, but they join with those of four million other Louisianians. You can help by learning about wetlands in your area and educating others about these unique and intriguing places.  Here are some suggestions from the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana.

1. Get to know your wetlands. Spend time outdoors on any of the numerous trails, nature centers and refuges in the coastal region of Louisiana.

2. Join a nonprofit organization (see the “Links” section) that works to preserve the coast and its wetlands.

3. Contribute funds, services or supplies to nonprofit organizations that work to preserve the coast. With decreases in government funding most non-profits cannot carry out their mission without active support from the public.

4. Participate in a wetland restoration plan. Contribute your professional expertise or elbow grease to cleaning pollution, replanting or planning habitat restoration.

5. Become involved in local government actions that affect wetlands. You can request to receive the agenda of project planning meetings, and copies of documents covering any restoration issues.

6. Speak out for protection for Louisiana's coast and coastal wetlands, marshes, cheniers and barrier islands to your elected officials. Let them know the coast has a voting constituency.

7. Observe development practices in Louisiana's coastal zone to determine if erosion and pollution control is effective and report violations to city and county officials.

8. Get involved. Find out where wetlands exist near your home, try to learn more about them and support educational efforts at your local school, such as wetland outdoor educational labs.

9. Encourage neighbors, developers and state and local governments to protect wetlands in your watershed through resolutions, ordinances and laws.

10. Pursue more environmentally friendly solutions to save wetlands, such as waterfowl production, fur harvest, hay and forage, wild rice production, hunting and trapping leases, and selective (truly sustainable) timber harvest, rather than draining or filling wetlands. 

11. Learn more about wetland restoration activities in your area; seek and support opportunities to restore degraded wetlands. You can even obtain technical and financial assistance if you wish to restore wetlands on your property.

12. Purchase an environmental license plate for your car.

13. Save water. Saving water will help our wetlands by reducing the volume of water going through sewage treatment plants. A dripping faucet can waste 20 gallons of water a day and a leaking toilet 200 gallons. If your water meter dial moves when no water is running, you have a leak. Use water sparingly while brushing your teeth, washing dishes, or shaving. Install a water conservation shower head and take short showers instead of baths. A bath uses 30-50 gallons of water, a short shower only 10.

14. Dispose of household products carefully. Many products under your kitchen sink or in the garage can harm the wetlands. Never pour paints, preservatives, brush cleaners, and solvents down a drain. Sewers or septic tanks do not treat these materials, and they can enter the wetlands untreated. Buy the product with the least amount of toxic material. Used turpentine and brush cleaners can be filtered and reused. Learn about your parish's household hazardous waste disposal program.

15. Care for your lawn cautiously. Lawns with trees and shrubs prevent erosion, soak up nutrients before they run off into the wetlands, and improve your soil by adding organic material. Plant the right grass by testing your soil annually. Use the proper fertilizer, and do not over-fertilize. Improper fertilizing can lead to disease, poor root growth, or weed problems. Water your yard only when it's dry by soaking the soil to a depth of four to six inches. Make sure your lawn service is customized to your lawn's needs.

16. Practice sensible pest control. Pesticides can eliminate all bugs. A better way to eliminate harmful garden bugs is to encourage helpful bugs and animals. Make sure wood piles which attract termites are away from your home. Dispose of old tires properly from water where mosquitoes like to breed. Follow pesticide directions carefully. Do not apply near water or bare ground, and do not apply if rain is forecast.

17. Control run-off from your yard. Ninety percent of the rain that falls in Louisiana finds its way into our wetlands. This run-off can carry the fertilizers and toxic chemicals you use on your yard. By retaining rainwater you improve the water quality of our wetlands, reduce erosion, replenish the groundwater supply, and reduce the need for fertilizers. Trees, shrubs, and groundcover reduce run-off and soak up nutrients which help clean the water. They will be most effective if planted as a buffer around your yard or in a bare area. They also require less maintenance, fertilizer, and herbicides than grass.

18. Control soil erosion. When rain falls on hard surfaces such as walkways, patios, and driveways, it can go into a storm drain and be carried into our wetlands. This water can't nourish the soil, and it deposits sediments and nutrients which overload the area. Rain soaks into soft ground and provides nourishment. Slow down run-off by reducing the amount of hard surfaces around your home. Wood decks with space between the boards allow water to drain into the ground. Brick or interlocking stone walkways also permit water to seep into the soil. Diverting rain from paved surfaces onto grass reduces run-off into storm drains.

19. Maintain your septic system. If a septic tank fails, its untreated sewage can seep into rivers and into our wetlands. Your system is not working properly if drains and toilets drain slowly or if effluent seeps upward from the ground. Dispose of chemicals properly. Use your garbage disposal sparingly to reduce grease and solids in your septic system. Don't use your toilet as a garbage can. Know the location of your system, and keep heavy equipment off the drainage area. Plant trees and shrubs away from drain tiles so they do not clog the drain lines.

20. Use car care products wisely. Motor oil, anti-freeze, and battery acid harm our wetlands if they flow into storm drains or off paved surfaces into a waterway. Contain these fluids when you change them. To dispose of these materials, check your local service station or call the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. If you cannot dispose of these products, put them in a strong plastic bag with newspaper or other absorbent material. Wash your car on grass so that water and detergent are filtered through the grass before entering our wetlands.

21. Contain chemical spills. If pesticides, oil, or similar products leak or spill onto the garage floor, driveway, or other hard surface, do not wash down the area. This will cause further contamination and may carry the material to storm drains or other water sources. Surround the contaminated area with dirt or sprinkle sawdust, kitty litter, or other absorbent material over the spill. Put the material into a strong plastic bag and put the bag in the trash.

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Adapted from a document from the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana.

   
   
photo credit/caption: Dennis Demcheck