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Guardians of the Swamp

Kayak Guide

How to join the fight for healthy ecosystems in Louisiana

By Ross Baringer

During my tours, usually toward the end, I mention to the group that there are several environmentalist organizations working hard to protect the natural beauty and health of Louisiana’s wilderness. Later, as we paddle back toward the boat launch to end the day’s adventures, I’m frequently approached by people who want more. They want to help preserve the unique and verdant wetlands they’ve just explored. The swamp can have that effect on people. More often than not, they aren’t locals. These folks come from all over the world, and though they are inevitably going to return to their far away homes, they ask who these environmental groups are and how they can help after they leave Louisiana. These are a few of the groups I tell them about, with a brief introduction and a link to each…  It is always the best time to visit New Orleans and help protect our environment.

Sierra Club Delta Chapter

Founded in 1892, The Sierra Club is the USA’s oldest conservation group. The Delta Chapter is the Louisiana branch of that organization, and has a long history of fighting for the preservation of Louisiana’s wilderness. With efforts ranging from environmental education to hands on volunteer stewardship, the various regional groups of the Delta Chapter provide people of all ages with opportunities to get involved. They are also very involved in litigation efforts, most recently joining several other groups to file a suit meant to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to return the Louisiana black bear to the endangered species list and continue to provide protection for the animal and its habitat.

Gulf Restoration Network

GRN was actually born out of the Sierra Club. It was set up as a coalition of environmental advocacy groups who in the mid-90’s saw a need for a gulf-wide legal defense fund. Since then they have won many hard fought victories for, not just Louisiana, but all five gulf states. One of their most notable victories involved preventing the state of Alabama from using settlement money from 2010’s BP oil spill to build a shiny new convention center, as that money was specifically dog-eared for coastal restoration efforts. Litigation is of course incredibly expensive, and donating to this organization is a great way to help from affar.

L’Eau Est La Vie Camp

L’Eau Est La Vie Camp is much smaller in scope than the other groups on this list, but their fight is a hard one. These people are the boots on the ground. L’Eau Est La Vie is an activist group fighting the construction of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline, which is the continuation of the infamous Dakota Access Pipeline. The camp is an extension of the fight that began at Standing Rock, and like the people who stood in resistance at Standing Rock this group includes water protectors from indigenous Louisiana tribes. The pipeline threatens a large swath of the states most vast and crucial wetlands, including land that is sacred to the Houma, Chitimacha, and Chata territories, as well as the Atchafalaya Basin, which is the largest river swamp in the world and home to several endangered species. These people camp in the path of the pipeline forming a physical resistance to the construction. Their fight is an urgent one and contributing to their cause will help provide resources for the campers.