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Long-time Advocate for Coastal Restoration Tops Cast of Conservation Award Winners

April 1, 2011 3:30 AM

Ted Falgout, retired executive director of Port Fourchon and long-time advocate for coastal restoration, was honored Saturday, March 19th with the Governor’s Award for conservation achievement. The award is presented annually by the Louisiana Wildlife Federation to the person or organization deemed to have made the most outstanding contribution toward the protection and wise use of the state's natural resources - air, soil and minerals, forests, waters, fish and wildlife - from among nominees submitted by the public.

The selection for this and seven other awards was made by a panel of independent judges with expertise in a wide range of conservation fields. The Governor's Award, a handsome statuette of a bald eagle, was presented at the 47th Conservation Achievement Recognition Banquet held at the Alexander Fulton Hotel & Convention Center in Alexandria where the Louisiana Wildlife Federation convened for its 72nd Annual Meeting.

Those individuals and organizations honored at the reception and banquet for their outstanding conservation achievements last year are:

Ted Falgout – Governor’s Award, Conservationist of the Year

When it comes to impact and outreach at the local and national level, Ted Falgout is no stranger to talking to reporters, congressional staffers, and business leaders about wetland land loss in Louisiana. He has been a leading voice in promoting coastal protection and restoration for more than thirty years.

While overseeing Port Fourchon, one of the most important energy ports in the nation located in one of the fastest eroding wetlands in the world, Falgout also made restoring the surrounding environment his personal mission. During his tenure with the port, he guided the Greater Lafourche Port Commission to initiate numerous restoration projects. He was an early leader in the establishment of Louisiana’s Coastal Zone Management program.

He became a useful and effective resource to our Congressional delegation, state officials, and local communities. Along the way, he mentored colleagues and employees to encourage them to become a catalyst for positive change as he himself demonstrated. Since retiring as executive director of Port Fourchon in 2009 after 30 years, he continues to contribute his expertise and passion to coastal protection and restoration efforts as a consultant and volunteer.

In times, like the recent oil spill, when an unexpected and potentially disastrous event challenges the resources and abilities of responders at every level, someone with Ted Falgout’s knowledge is vitally important. He worked with the Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator’s Office to educate about dispersants and provided guidance to the many initiatives designed to prevent oil from reaching the marshes. This doesn’t sound like retirement, does it?

He currently volunteers with America’s Wetland, Restore or Retreat, and the Barataria-Terebonne National Estuary Program. He continues to be active in local chamber and industrial groups as well as the Port Association of Louisiana, the Governor’s Advisory Commission, and the Louisiana Recovery Authority Infrastructure Subcommittee. He chairs the Lafourche Coastal Zone Advisory Committee for which he has been a leader for more than 30 years. He was appointed to the recently-created Oyster Advisory Commission. It seems like his “retirement” is the public’s gain.

Many people recall Ted’s crucial leadership as a member of the Louisiana Coastal Commission in the 1980s when the Commission debated the contentious topic of clamshell and reefshell dredging. Shell dredging was discontinued, and this had a huge impact on the manner in which Louisiana does business and protects its resources.

He was an early promoter of beneficial use of dredged material. Ted spearheaded the charge to resolve operational issues concerning the Davis Pond Freshwater Diversion Project. He has been a long-time advocate at the local, state and federal level for Louisiana to gain its “fair share” of OCS revenue from oil and gas production.

He probably can’t count the number of people he’s taken on tours of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands to demonstrate how Louisiana contributes to the nation’s energy sector and how land loss is affecting Louisiana’s coastal zone. Upon retiring, Ted could have spent more time fishing and hunting and here’s hoping he is enjoying those opportunities. But for this coastal champion, the need to preserve and protect Louisiana’s natural resources and way of life continues to garner his attention, expertise and commitment.

 

 Michael Carloss – Professional Conservationist of the Year

There’s an old Chinese Proverb that says; “Choose a job you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” While that sounds good, and may even be true in most instances, it probably doesn’t completely apply in this particular case. The fact is, Michael Carloss works hard every day. But one thing is certain; he chose a job and a career that he loves, and that’s made evident by the way he performs it every day.

Michael Carloss is the Biologist Director for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’, Coastal and Nongame Resources Division. His list of accomplishments for 2010 is extraordinary, but most notable was the multitude of difficult tasks he performed both during and after what was to become an environmental disaster of historic proportions; the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Mike was involved from day-one of the tragedy, especially due to the fact that the oil spill section for LDWF falls within his area of administration. Working long days, nights, and weekends throughout the crisis, the majority of his work with the disaster in the Gulf far exceeded his principle job description. Mike’s constantly expanding and evolving role integrated a wide variety of responsibilities, including:

• Early response coordination;

• The initial prioritization of important wildlife areas for boom placement;

• Establishment of protocols for clean-up efforts in and around bird nesting colonies which were essential in assuring that the impact wasn’t made even worse by the frantic efforts to contain and clean-up the horrible mess.

 • He was directly involved in the capture and rescue of hundreds of oiled birds as well as the subsequent release of those that could be saved and rehabilitated.

• And Mike was and continues to be involved in the formulation of post-spill recovery and restoration plans.

He was the primary LDWF employee to be involved with the filming and coordination of an HBO documentary film of the oil spill. He worked closely with LDWF videographers on several excellent informational videos about the spill which were used on the LDWF web site, and which were picked up and used by several national and international media outlets. It was Mike’s work with the oil spill, but especially with media activities during the spill, that lead to his receiving the LDWF 2010 Employee of the Year for the Office of Wildlife.

But apparently, working seven days a week on oil spill response and recovery last year didn’t keep Mike busy enough, because there’s more:

• He also worked closely with DNR and other agencies in hopes of better utilizing dredged material to the great benefit of Delta, Pass a Loutre, and Atchafalaya Delta Wildlife Management Areas, and the Isle Derniere chain of barrier islands.

• He worked with the LDWF Office of Fisheries on the formulation of an Elmer’s Island Wildlife Refuge management plan where he made sure that avian and other wildlife species needs were included in the future plans for the new refuge.

• He coordinated and wrote master plans for all coastal Wildlife Management Areas • He was involved in whooping crane reintroduction planning.

• Restitution planning for another oil spill on the Breton National Wildlife Refuge

• And Mike was and is part of the Framework Development Team for the Louisiana Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration.

The list of Mike’s accomplishments goes on and just reading about it all is a little exhausting. May his efforts and accomplishments continue to inspire us all.

 

Kenneth Sayes – Volunteer Conservationist of the Year

People who volunteer don’t do it for recognition. They see a need and offer their time, talent or resources to make a difference as best they can. They likely will never know how far their contribution ripples through the lives of people who benefit from their gifts. But thanks to the volunteer efforts of Kenneth “Kenny” Sayes, we can say that thousands of kids have enjoyed learning about nature and conservation principles, and many more adults have enjoyed the benefits of Louisiana’s natural resources and amazing recreational fishing opportunities.

Kenny, owner of Sayes Office Supply in Alexandria, has been a leader for National Hunting and Fishing Day for several years in the central Louisiana area. Many people think of National Hunting and Fishing Day as a promotion for those sports. This is partly true, but National Hunting and Fishing Day is a day of conservation education. Displays and interactive programs on clean air, water and soil are presented throughout the day to promote the protection and stewardship of a healthy environment to sustain people as well as fish and wildlife resources.

Kenny has helped make the central Louisiana event better each year for the past ten years, and one of the best in the state. In addition to his volunteer time, he has also sponsored and financed the event. In 2010, more than 1,500 children and 2,000 adults participated. Kenny furnished hot dogs for the kids and bottled water for all on a hot September day.

Philip Timmons, outdoor writer for Alexandria Town Talk newspaper, noted Kenny’s impact by writing, “I can remember when there were more volunteers than participants. Since Kenny’s arrival, the event has just taken off. The number of children coming through here is amazing. He has put the event on solid financial footing and has improved it year by year. Kenny has given so freely of his money, his time, and his energy, and yet, he always shifts the spotlight away from him and to the volunteers and sponsors.” Well, now we turn our spotlight on recognizing his worthy volunteer work.

In addition to volunteering with National Hunting and Fishing Day, Kenny has been active with the Top Six Bass Tournament, the longest running non-professional bass tournament in the United States. As past chairman, he was instrumental in helping the tournament attract the largest number of fishermen (more than 950) in the event’s history. While the purpose of the tournament is to crown the six best amateur fishermen in the state, Kenny helped put more emphasis on the tournament’s huge financial boon for the area as well as draw attention to the Sabine River Authority, the lake’s restocking efforts, the Toledo Bend Lake Association and their many worthwhile projects, including fish management education.

Kenny Sayes represents the kind of volunteer all organizations yearn for and a successful event needs: a committed, thoughtful, active leader.

 

Future Leaders of America’s Gulf (FLAG) – Youth Conservationists of the Year

How do we, as mentors, get youth more involved in the multitude of conservation issues that are faced in Louisiana? “Nothing” may be a surprising answer, but when it comes to this year’s self-motivated youth conservation honorees, it’s the best answer.

Future Leaders of America’s Gulf (F.L.A.G.) is a group of high school students who organized in June of last year as a non-profit organization. For most of its members, it started with a weekend trip to Grand Isle during the summer break. But their plans of fun, sun and sand were squashed by miles and miles of closed beaches. And when a massive motorcade passed by, led by none other than the President of the United States, they realized how significant the implications of the BP oil spill would be and decided to get involved – and get involved they did.

F.L.A.G. is led by a core group of about a dozen leaders who meet every Monday at the Terrebonne Parish Library. Their purpose is to educate youth on a local and national level of the issues facing the future of our gulf coast. And in a very short time, their approach through media outlets and social networking has garnered nearly 900 followers thus far.

F.L.A.G began by hosting a “Gulf Youth Forum” on a local TV station and continues to host a bi-weekly interview segment. The station has given FLAG access to training in interview, camera and video editing techniques, of which the group has taken advantage by reaching out over the airwaves and web to residents of Terrebonne, Lafourche and Assumption Parishes, and the town of Grand Isle. Coastal erosion is a common topic of the conversation, and factors like saltwater intrusion, the devastating consequences of man-made canals, drainage of chemicals and fertilizers into the Mississippi River, extensive loss of vegetation, and the complicated issue of Mississippi River diversions are all points of discussion.

F.L.A.G. members understand the serious implications of complacency and the importance of awareness to bring about change. To that affect, they have made presentations at the Voice of the Wetlands Festival in Houma, and participated in a state coastal outreach planning meeting with then Lt. Governor Scott Angelle on October first.

F.L.A.G. leaders have also met with all Terrebonne Parish High School Student Council officers and the school board, and presented at the Southern Association of Student Councils. They have partnered with the ADVANCE Baton Rouge Charter School Association to provide youth-to-youth education regarding coastal issues. The group does not limit its outreach to youth groups or the local arena.

F.L.A.G. has also made presentations to the Coastal Caucus of Environmental Legislators, United States Senator Mary Landrieu, Governor Bobby Jindal, the Regional Environmental Educators Roundtable held in Dallas, Texas, and Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus. They hope to work with John Hankinson, the Executive Director of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, and have met with him in Washington, D.C.

Having accomplished so much since F.L.A.G.’s inception in June 2010, it wouldn’t be surprising to see any of its own ambitious leaders in a presidential motorcade one day. LWF honors F.L.A.G. leaders for giving youth a voice in Coastal Louisiana’s issues and, as member Vinny Cannata states, “encouraging and providing a platform for concerned curiosity where now, little exists.”

 

 

 

ExxonMobil Baton Rouge Complex – Conservation Corporation of the Year

Nesting song birds, urban green spaces, arboretums, and pollination fields of native wildflowers filled with butterflies and honey bees; those images are hardly what first come to mind when most people think of an oil refinery or chemical plant in the middle of a city. But because of the ongoing commitment of the ExxonMobil Baton Rouge Complex, and the dedication and tireless volunteer efforts and of its employees throughout Louisiana, that perception is changing.

The Wildlife Habitat Council is a national non-profit organization dedicated to conservation and ecological enhancement of industry lands, and fostering cooperative relationships between industry and conservation groups. The Council has recognized ExxonMobil as a leader among its many partner organizations, and has officially certified several of the programs that were created by the refinery and its several thousand employees.

• In cooperation with local groups, ExxonMobil converted a declining neighborhood adjacent to the refinery into a green space and wildlife habitat. This new urban wildlife preserve includes nature trails and an Arboretum and Learning Center dedicated to wildlife habitat restoration and educational activities in partnership with community and academic institutions such as Southern University, local Boy Scout Troops and churches.

• At their large tank farm on Scenic Hwy. which was decommissioned several years ago, ExxonMobil has restricted future redevelopment and has begun working with partners from Southern University, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge Green and others, in the process to convert the property into an urban green space. Tree planting began in earnest in 2010, with the goal of reforesting at least 100 acres on the site of this former storage facility.

• ExxonMobil received Wildlife Habitat Council certification for another 25 acre property located along the Mississippi River near its Baton Rouge refinery. The site, which consists of valuable wetlands and riparian bottom land habitat, is directly connected to the river and provides important breeding and foraging habitat for reptiles and amphibians, as well as foraging and nesting habitat for a variety of waterfowl and wading bird species, owls, hawks, even eagles! The company protected the property from future development and has made numerous habitat improvements including providing nesting structures for eastern bluebirds, wood ducks, and bats.

• In 2010, the company also received certification of its “Sorrento Salt Dome Preserve” on property near the town of Sorrento, LA. Wildlife enhancement projects at the salt dome include plantings of cypress trees, creation and maintenance of man-made ponds, and the installation of nesting structures for bats, purple martins, bluebirds and wood ducks.

• In 2010 ExxonMobil also received Wildlife Habitat Council certification of another program at its on-shore operations in Grand Isle, where its facilities are surrounded by hundreds of acres of excellent bird habitat; a scarce commodity on the small island.

In 2010, ExxonMobil’s Grand Isle Operations entered into a cooperative agreement with the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program to develop tracts of colonial water bird nesting habitat on this property. Targeted bird species included wintering populations of snowy and Wilson’s plovers and the endangered piping plover, as well as breeding populations of terns, egrets, and oystercatchers. In addition to land acquisition, re-pollination efforts, tree planting, habitat enhancement, wildflower seeding and beautification projects, the ExxonMobil team is developing Louisiana’s most cherished natural resource – our youth and young adults. By involving and educating them, ExxonMobil is assuring that the future leaders of our state have an appreciation of nature and an understanding of the value of our natural resources.

 

Amy Griffin Ouchley – Conservation Educator of the Year Enthusiastic.

Dedicated. Knowledgeable. Innovative. Inspiring. Outstanding. Above and Beyond. Star Thrower. This is how colleagues describe environmental educator Amy Griffin Ouchley.

Her work in environmental education has touched hundreds of teachers and thousands of students in Monroe and around the state. She fosters a passion for conservation by inspiring others to learn.

After Amy’s family moved to Louisiana, she joined the University of Louisiana – Monroe faculty as a biology instructor in 1994 and retired in 2005. While teaching at ULM, she volunteered her time and lent her expertise to several education programs. Retirement from teaching at ULM only meant she would have more time to continue volunteering as an environmental instructor.

As volunteer environmental education director for Friends of Black Bayou, Amy helped develop themes for the Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center and was instrumental in the establishment of the Refuge’s Conservation Learning Center. She conducts workshops at the refuge and museum and regularly leads guided nature walks for school groups.

Amy is also a girl scout volunteer and mentors older girls in an outdoor leadership group that leads environmental activities for younger scouts. During her service on the Pine Wood Girl Scout Camp Committee, the property was designated by Girl Scouts USA as a Lou Henry Hoover Memorial Sanctuary dedicated to environmental education. You can see the evidence of Amy’s guidance and ideas in the addition of a nature center wing with interactive displays and learning stations at Pine Wood Lodge.

She has profoundly influenced middle school teachers through her work with Delta Regional Educators’ Academy at ULM by planning and facilitating three-week professional development summer institutes for the past seven years. Her environmental education career positions also include Louisiana Project WILD Coordinator; environmental education consultant and teacher for ULM Young Scholars Program, Howard Hughes Science Program, LA Gear-Up, and Louisiana Department of Education Math Science Partnerships. She was creator/writer of “Louisiana Nature Investigator,” an activity guide for elementary children, which was published in the Louisiana Conservationist; and of “Let’s Go Fishing”, a 37-page aquatic education activity guide.

She has also been an environmental education workshop facilitator for in-service teacher training for eight school districts and for ULM graduate students. Creative crafts are another hallmark of Amy’s environmental education programs. In 2010, Amy received the “Star Thrower Award” for excellence in environmental education from the National Association for Interpretation. This truly describes her philosophy that touching one touches many.

Each year, she has developed new education materials or workshop modules and has been invited to present at numerous state and national conferences. Her work is leaving a positive, lasting impact on students and teachers, which benefits all of us.

 

William H. “Billy” Nungesser – Conservationist of the Year, Elected Official

To say that 2010 was an “exceptional year” for the state of Louisiana would be an understatement of epic proportions. Nothing could have prepared us for the emotions of fear and helplessness experienced during the catastrophic event that has become synonymous with a dynamic, yet optimistic name…… Deepwater Horizon.

As millions watched the horrific fire and slow demise of the once proud drilling vessel, immediately thoughts and prayers were focused on those who survived and especially the unaccounted eleven that never surfaced, but few viewers could ever imagine that those same prayers would later be needed to fend-off the looming environmental disaster yet to emerge. Despite the extravagant, high tech safety devices in place, as the flames diminished and the brown ooze began to free flow to the surface, it became apparent that something was dreadfully wrong.

Leaders from across the coastal communities began to ask questions about how much? How soon? And, who is going to stop it? Among those who immediately recognized the looming disaster for his Parish and its fragile wetlands was Parish President William “Billy” Nungesser.

No stranger to dealing with adversity, Nungesser came into office in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, and immediately engaged in a tireless effort to get his community back on its feet, reinforce hurricane protection levees and aggressively pursue coastal restoration and protection projects for his Parish. His passion for his purpose would be tested many times during 2010 from the very beginning of that ominous April 20th day.

He would eagerly go “toe-to-toe” with anyone, to get things done and protect the land and livelihood of its people. Never wavering on his heart-felt elected responsibility, President Nungesser was outspoken in bringing national attention and exposing the lack of resources in the early stages and the belated response in setting up coastal protection barriers. Some of the first actions he worked closely with Governor Jindal on, were constructing experimental floating pipe barriers, and developing a plan for dredged sand berms protecting coastal passes along the outer shoreline.

He was instrumental in negotiating critical obstacles, cutting through red tape, to make things happen. His hands-on presence in the everyday planning sessions, equipment staging and deployment, along with countless incident briefings, agency meetings, press conferences and public appearances, cemented his image and words of confidence in our minds, that “Failure is not an Option.”

Outside of the BP incident and its tragic effects on his Parish, President Nungesser continues his fight for coastal restoration, promoting his Parish’s Strategic Implementation Plan, focused on rebuilding barrier islands, forested ridges and declining marshlands with increased attention on features such as sustainability, resiliency, and flood protection while promoting international trade, seafood, and tourism industries – all tied together by the single bond of a healthy coastal ecosystem.

On a local and national level, he is constantly working to secure funding for coastal restoration, while looking for opportunities to cut costs. He looked at Mississippi River Dredging operations and developed the bid specifications and investigated contracting vehicles for a long-term leased dredge to assist in transporting sediment, utilizing state of the art technology currently being used in international markets, which considerably reduces prices for potential bidders. This effort alone is seen as an important first step in developing plans for future beneficial sediment placement for proposed restoration projects.

President Nungesser continues to fight the daily battles that exist because of the BP spill, and continues to inform the world that the problem did not end with the capping of the well. Accelerated coastline loss, along with joblessness due to the spill, continues to exist for Plaquemines Parish. It is estimated that one third of the oil released from the Deepwater Horizon incident made landfall in the fragile wetlands of Plaquemines Parish. Nungesser’s tireless efforts and ardent defense of Louisiana’s natural resources during the BP oil spill, and his continued fight for the conservation and preservation of our vanishing coastal wetlands, truly epitomize his public service.

 

First Presbyterian Church of Bayou Blue – Conservation Organization of the Year

How can you feel the power of environmental stewardship at work in God’s house? You visit The First Presbyterian Church of Bayou Blue and listen to its small but active congregation and staff talk about the need for coastal restoration in Louisiana. You see how they work with the community of Grand Bayou to help with the tribe’s strategy to rebuild and protect themselves with restoration projects. You take action and carry the message back to others around the nation and the world to inspire commitment to help Louisiana restore our wetlands.

The First Presbyterian Church of Bayou Blue, pastored by Reverend Kristina Peterson, has 120 members who are very active in their church and the small community of Bayou Blue in Terrebonne Parish. But the impact of their commitment to advocating for coastal restoration has been felt nationally and internationally. The recovery response to Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Gustav inspired the congregation to not only open their hearts and hospitality to incoming volunteers, but to educate them about the loss of wetlands in Louisiana, which they linked to the severity of the impact of the storms.

After hearing the church’s convincing and compelling message to restore Louisiana’s coastline, more than 3,000 Presbyterian volunteers carried the message back to nearly 10,000 churches. This helped convince the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church to endorse the establishment of a theological wetlands education center.As lay pastor Richard Maag pronounced, “This is the acorn shaking the tree.”

In 2010, BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and another ecological and economic threat loomed for Louisiana’s coast and local communities. The church responded by helping organize and support two trips to the Prince William Sound area in Alaska so Louisiana residents could learn from those affected by the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill. They also supported and hosted two visiting groups from Alaska. This facilitated discussion of the issues of coastal land loss, relocation, environmental impacts and response needs, and restoration. This kind of active learning is crucial to stewardship and the church is determined to use this unprecedented tragedy as a catalyst to protect our natural environment and promote safe oil production.

When congregation members aren’t attending national conferences, talking to documentary makers, or advocating for coastal restoration to other organizations, they are hosting coastal residents from around the world to share mutual issues related to coastal land loss. They are conducting field trips locally to help people understand the environmental, cultural and economic issues affecting the wetlands and the people of south Louisiana. In addition, they work closely with the Presbytery of South Louisiana to help several communities develop projects. Every member contributes in some way, even to the smallest detail of growing fresh vegetables and raising a cow to butcher for food for volunteers who continue to come to the area to help rebuild and restore. For this small but committed church, wetland preservation and protection is more than an individual and public responsibility, it is a theological matter and a moral imperative.

The 2010 Conservation Award Winners

 


 
 
 
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