Wetlands Warrior: Scott Eustis

Saving Coastal Louisiana’s wetlands is a job for the qualified and dedicated—or more specifically, a regional affiliation of coastal scientists, advocates, lawyers, journalists and other stakeholders.

As part of Global Green USA’s Louisiana Wetlands Program and #WetlandsWednesday, we’re launching a new blog series that will shine a spotlight on these “Wetlands Warriors.” We’ll discover what drives them and what news they can share from the Gulf Coast.

Our kick-off interview features Scott Eustis, the Gulf Restoration Network’s Coastal Wetlands Specialist. With “…an extensive background in wetlands and fisheries research” (part of which entails debunking wetland pseudo-science), Scott knows a thing or two about Louisiana’s coastal ecosystem.

Global Green USA (GGUSA): What sparked your passion for protecting Louisiana’s wetlands?

Scott Eustis (ES): My grandfather’s care for the environment and intense interest in the natural world; the yearly flooding of New Orleans in the 1990’s, and my ecological education at UNO under Dr. Penland and Dr. O’Connell.

GGUSA: Can you tell us a little bit about your past or current work on wetlands?

SE: I pass eyes on a few hundred of the thousands of wetlands permits that are allowed by our public agencies each year, and inform our members about severely damaging developments, and preparing legal comments on why wetlands must be protected by government and survey wetlands by kite and air.

GGUSA: What important, yet little-known, fact would you like to share with our audience?

SE: Wetland soil is where the action happens. Strong roots, marsh growth, nitrogen cycling and carbon sequestration, all happen in the soil—yet the government does not look for healthy soils when they evaluate wetlands.

GGUSA: What do you view as the primary obstacle to wetland restoration?

SE: Oil and gas owes Louisiana a marsh debt. We don’t want their money, we just want those oilfields to be marshes again; the industry should step up and fund sediment pipelines in Terrebonne and work with agencies to remove unused canals.  This does, however, get more expensive the more time we waste.

GG: What is something you would like to see added or emphasized in the 2017 State of Louisiana Coastal Master Plan?

SE: Again, the Oil Industry worries about money, but more so they worry about uncertain or unlimited liability.  The Master Plan is an opportunity to put the industry at ease by clearly outlining their liability to the coast and the state: How many acres do they owe us?  How can we manage old canals there is a balance between the need for land and the need for access?  The Master Plan defies how much restoration would cost, which could be the first step in getting industry to the table.

GGUSA: What future do you see for blue carbon on the Gulf Coast?

SE: It has the ability to fund lots of good restoration projects that have quality soils, provided that the monitoring and documentation are done correctly.

GGUSA: What is the one thing the average community member can do in the battle to restore coastal Louisiana?

SE: Call your state legislator and tell them to support the parish lawsuits to enforce the wetlands permits, and make the oil companies pay to restore old oilfields. Support us in our efforts to train coastal residents to monitor their communities.

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