Scientists from Italy, Egypt, Australia and across the U.S. gathered in New Orleans for a week long symposium to discuss the future of the Gulf Coast, build on existing research, and recommend specific scenarios for restoring coastal wetlands and increasing hurricane protection. On April 25, those scientists will meet with policy makers and key leaders from Gulf Coast states at Envisioning the Future of the Gulf Coast, an America’s WETLAND symposium sponsored by BP. Collectively, this group will shape a national call to action to protect coastal resources along the Gulf of Mexico, an area known as America’s Energy Coast.
“It is an honor for us to host this group of environmental experts from around the world who have come to New Orleans to help us determine the best methods of protecting the Gulf Coast communities and the wetlands essential for its future stability,” said Dr. Denise Reed, University of New Orleans, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. “We are bringing these scientists to ground zero for coastal land loss, to not only share with them some of our current approaches to coastal restoration and protection, but more importantly, to learn from their on-the-ground experiences in places as varied as Egypt, Australia, Italy, Alaska and California. Together we hope to develop approaches to coastal protection and restoration that can be applied locally and as well as globally.”
In the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the issue of Louisiana’s coastal land loss was brought to the national stage. Louisiana is the home to almost 6,000 sq mi of coastal wetlands, but they are being lost at an alarming rate—a football field of land disappears every 30 minutes. This vanishing landscape, known as America’s WETLAND, provides critical habitat for thousands of species and is nature’s first line of defense against hurricanes. It protects the people and the important energy infrastructure that clings to Louisiana’s tattered coast.
“The scars of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita will be long felt,” said King Milling, president of the America’s WETLAND Foundation. “As we rebuild our state, we must address the condition of our wetlands with the goal of making America’s WETLAND a model for coastal restoration.”
“The restoration and management of these coastal resources is one of the great challenges facing the science and engineering communities, and we must ensure they work together to create a comprehensive effort to restore and sustain this ‘working coast,’” said Sidney Coffee, executive assistant to Governor Blanco for Coastal Activities. “We know that others across the country and around the world have tackled similar coastal management issues, and our goal for this symposium is to assemble those experts, and facilitate a discussion about the work we have done, the problems we face and the findings of our own coastal scientists,” Coffee continued.
BP has joined with America’s WETLAND Foundation and has created the symposium in partnership with the states of Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi and Texas. “As an employer in the Gulf of Mexico and a company that values sustainable development, BP has joined with others to move this issue forward in the public arena,” said Ross Pillari, president of BP America, Inc. “The objectives of this symposium are to cultivate broad public understanding of the importance of these critical environmental, cultural and economic resources to the nation and to marshal a shared vision to take meaningful action to protect them over the long term.”
In August 2002, the state of Louisiana launched the America’s WETLAND: Campaign to Save Coastal Louisiana. The goal of the campaign was to raise public awareness that highlights the impact of Louisiana’s wetland loss and its effect towards the state, nation and world while gaining support for efforts to conserve and save coastal Louisiana. This ongoing national public education effort has helped elevate Louisiana's coastal land loss from a local or state issue to a national or international one.