Plaquemines Rising Plants Bald Cypress for the Coast

On August 24, 2023, Plaquemines Rising Coastal Restoration (PRCR) initiated a community clean-up event where we removed refuse from the Lorez Canal and neighboring marshlands. On August 26, 2023, PRCR had a bald cypress tree planting event at which volunteers and staff planted seedlings covering twenty miles (approx. 5 miles between each tree) in the marshlands alongside Louisiana Highway 39 (LA 39).  

Being that Plaquemines Rising Coastal Restoration is a new organization, we were appreciative of the grant Restore America’s Estuaries (RAE) and CITGO provided us to make these projects possible. This community-oriented event has had a tremendously positive impact on us. Most Plaquemines Parish residents and volunteers have a rich history that spans back as far as the late 1700’s. Countless generations have benefited greatly from the land’s resource-rich environment and, in turn, have raised families from that sustenance.  

In part, these events helped to bridge generational gaps. Elders shared their wisdom of the land with the youth, guided them, and calmed their worries or over-analyzing. After learning of the coastline’s immediate status and being educated/reminded about the sustainable qualities of their state tree, many residents felt more responsible for and empowered to preserve the land they call home. The RAE and CITGO Caring for Our Coast grant helped us to present an organized and funded project. 

This became an opportunity not only to give back to the land in the form of conservation but also, to empower the community, giving them a chance to reciprocate and give back to the land and each other. 

At our clean-up event, we emphasized the irresponsibility of littering both on a local and regional level. We noticed how younger folks were more enthused to monitor the grounds and keep the premises in check thereafter. These events instilled a deeper sense of community among us and gave us pride to wear our PRCR shirts and exemplify the principles we stand for and want to build on further. 

Since we live within the Breton Sound Basin, we must understand its importance. Historically the basin would flood with great quantities of freshwater and sediment from the Mississippi River during the spring which caused saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico to be flushed out annually. This natural process that added fresh water and nourishment to the marshlands, and helped combat saltwater intrusion, was entirely disrupted by the development of the flood protection levee system in the late 1930’s.  

Consequently, the saltwater in the basin is no longer flushed out every spring, causing salinity levels to drastically increase and further destabilization of the wetlands. The Breton Sound Basin is very important to us mostly because it serves as a buffer from hurricanes as well as a means to provide for families directly/indirectly. 

According to ‘The Economic Benefits of Fisheries, Wildlife and Boating Resources in the State of Louisiana’, “One of every 70 jobs in Louisiana can be attributed to commercial fisheries.” 

Before our grant-funded events, PRCR’s founder attended Louisiana’s State of the Coast Convention on July 2, 2023. At the convention, we had the opportunity to learn of the various methods and practices that neighboring communities were using to prevent further erosion of the coast. However, upon further investigation, we could not help noticing that our specific location along the coast was not represented in any of the conservation efforts.

For example, according to a report titled “An Evaluation of Survivability and Growth Rates of Bald Cypress Trees Planted for Coastal Restoration” by Andrew Ferris, we noticed that bald cypress trees have been planted at Fort Saint Phillip, Violet Canal, Central Wetlands Unit, and Lake Maurepas- North Pass. Coincidentally, there were no trees planted in our immediate area, given we are located between Fort Saint Phillip and Violet Canal.  

This revelation emphasized the need for the community, both young and old, to stand as the vanguard for the conservation and restoration of our respective positions on Louisiana’s southern coastline. We are thankful for the participating organizations that were able to compile the data and share it at the State of the Coast Conference so that we can use it to better guide the success of our own bald cypress planting initiatives. 

This project was funded through the 2023 round of the Caring For Our Coast Gulf Region Grants, a partnership between RAE and Citgo. For more information, click here.