Louisiana Wildlife Federation (LWF) recently wrapped up the second year of the Edgar Veillon Conservation Leadership Corps (CLC). This program was started in 2018 with a mission to foster the next generation of conservation leaders in Louisiana.
The CLC program is designed to provide training to increase skills and knowledge in key environmental issues, policymaking, leadership, ethics, public speaking, and career development. Society is changing and technology is making it more difficult for people to have a connection to the outdoors. Without that personal connection, conservation issues are not at the top of their priority list. This is especially true for the next generation. At the same time, threats to our wildlife, water and habitat are intensifying at an increasing rate. It is critical that we encourage and in our future conservation leaders to address the environmental challenges of tomorrow. This program fosters education and mentoring by those who have worked in the conservation arena for years.
This year’s class consisted of undergraduate students from universities across Louisiana. The 2019-2020 CLC class includes: Gracie Babineaux, Matthew Berry, Keith Chenier, Will delaBretonne, Josephine Engelman, Lexie LaGrone, Maegan LeBlanc, Avery Lemoine, Aly Pourciau, Grant Rhodes and Olivia Roy.
This year’s class was kicked off in September 2019 when students visited the LSU Center for River Studies where they toured the 10,000 square foot physical model of the lower Mississippi River – one of the world’s largest movable bed physical models. The model is able to replicate the flow, water levels and sediment transport of the river, where one year of the Mississippi River is simulated in one hour. During the tour, students learned how the state uses the model to test the effectiveness of projects such as sediment diversions and marsh creation projects and run scenarios on how one project might affect another.
Over the course of the academic year, students completed four training sessions. Students met in Baton Rouge in September at the LSU Renewable Natural Resources building. In November, students spent the weekend at the Woodworth Outdoor Recreation Center where they also had a chance to get outdoors with a nature walk and enjoy gumbo around the fire pit. CLC students returned to Baton Rouge at the Tracy Center in January.
The final session of the program was moved online in April due to the coronavirus pandemic. During the course of the program, students were divided into groups to work on specific environmental issues. Each group had a mentor to help guide them during their research. The final meeting was held over video conference and students were able to present their work online. Group projects focused on analysis of changes in the Endangered Species Act, policies affecting migratory birds along the coast, and policies guiding wind energy development in Louisiana.
The program allows students the opportunity to meet and interact with natural resource professionals from federal and state agencies, nonprofits, and academia. This year’s speakers included:
Virginia Burkett, climate change professional (not representing an agency)
Mark Davis, Tulane University
Greg Grandy, Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority
Erik Johnson, Audubon Louisiana
Su King and Tyler McCloud, Louisiana House of Representatives
Lisa Lewis, U.S. Forest Service
John Lopez, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation
John Pitre, Natural Resource Conservation Service
Robert Twilley, Louisiana Sea Grant
Rebecca Triche, Bob Stewart and Willie Fontenot, Louisiana Wildlife Federation
Congratulations to our 2019-2020 Conservation Leadership Corps class! We look forward to ongoing engagement with our students as LWF continues its mission to be the voice of Louisiana’s wildlife and natural resources.
LWF would like to thank all of the speakers that participated as well as the student mentors (Bob Stewart, Barney Callahan and Larry Raymond) and committee members (Zac Burson, Charles Caillouet, Willie Fontenot and Marty Floyd) for their assistance and guidance.
This year’s Conservation Leadership Corps was made possible by the generous donations from the Boo Grigsby Foundation, the Gustaf McIlhenny Family, Friends of Grand Isle and supplemental funding provided by Louisiana Wildlife Federation.