A Football Field of Wetlands

Credit:  Jessie Hardman/WWNO
Bayou Dularge, LA – Credit: Jessie Hardman/WWNO *

A football field.  You just pictured one in your mind’s eye, didn’t you? What American hasn’t played on one, marched on one, cheered on one, or at least seen one on TV?  Now you’re wondering what wetlands loss and football fields have to do with one another, right?  

That same question sent WWNO Radio’s Coastal Reporter, Jessie Hardman, out to do a little pigskin homework, as it were. He tracked down the person who first coined the phrase in relation to wetlands loss, which was first heard in the early part of 2000:  “Louisiana is losing a football field of wetlands every half hour.” In the process, he and his producer, Laine, took a ride down the bayou to visit with me and my friend, Steph, producer of a new documentary about Louisiana’s 100-year history with big oil.  

In yesterday’s radio show piece about the origin of the football field analogy, Jessie revealed his findings and shareed poignant sound bites from several coastal residents about how they wrap their heads around the correlation between a football field and wetlands. It occurred to me this morning that many of the readers here might not have ever heard the comparative phrase before. Well, maybe it’s high time they did, and I can’t think of a better way to introduce y’all to yet one more way to measure the wetland loss here than by listening to what a public radio show reporter has to say about it.  

I’m pleased to share their work with you, and it brings me great pleasure to know that WWNO public radio recognizes the need for education about Louisiana’s ongoing coastal land loss issues. Furthermore, I really enjoyed meeting Jessie and Laine, and I look forward to working with them on future pieces and other projects that shine a bigger spotlight on coastal land loss and restoration. 

To update you on our weather down here.  It’s CRAZY.  The temp rose to 84 degrees yesterday, dropped to the low 50s this morning, and continues to drop with wind gusts up to 40 mph.  I’m sure plenty of you are experiencing freezing rain, sleet, or snow.  Well, I’m sorry about that for you, and I do not envy you one little bit.  Not one!

So, I leave you with the short audio clip of the radio show and a link to WWNO’s website so you can read the transcript of the show if you would like.

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Stay warm, my friends!


PS:  Just a little trivial tidbit about Jessie’s photo: This is the same area of cypress that I’ve referred to in past posts and is also the inspiration for the illustration on the back cover of my first book. Thirty years ago, the cypress trees in this grove were so thick, I couldn’t see through them – and now, most have fallen to muddy graves, their brittle skeletons no longer able to stand.
Once beautiful sentinels of the swamp.
Now gone.
In my children’s lifetime. 

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  1. A little first hand experience from me. Last Summer our family took a short trip to Grand Isle, La. to do some fishing. When we bring our camper, the boat stays home and we usually surf fish. Our son pulled the boat on this occasion since they were staying longer and had rented a place to stay and were staying longer than Hubby and I. Anyway, When I went out in the boat I was surprised that we didn’t head out to our usual spot we fished. Turns out, the islands were no longer there! It had been about 3 years since I’d gone out in the bay, and I had no idea they had washed away. Nothing was the same. We were fishing a whole new body of water. Notice I said fishing…were sure didn’t catch.
    I’ll listen to the broadcast later. Even though I already know what is going to be said.

    1. That’s quite a tremendous change in just three years, Steffi, although it happens all to often around here. Shame, really. I wonder if you had been there since Isaac? Isaac shifted a lot of stuff around.

  2. I’m thinking Isaac may have wiped them out, but I’m not certain. The timing is right. I do know I was totally lost without those “landmarks”.

  3. I remember the first time I heard the football field analogy, I hardly could believe it. I think it must have been from you. In fact, I’m positive it was.

    There used to be an island called Redfish Island in Galveston Bay. It’s been rebuilt, in a manner of speaking — if you look at a map of the bay you can see it lying ESE of the entrance to the Clear Creek Channel. In its heyday it was a spoonbill rookery, and even after the birds were gone, it was a great anchorage for weekend jaunts. After Alicia made a cut through it in ’83 (?) the wash from the ship channel wore it away over time. While that situation’s a little different, it’s still a good reminder of how quickly change can happen.

    1. When I was looking at the map of where you live, I thought I saw a Redfish Island in the Bay. Yes, it is still a very good reminder of how quickly hydrology can and DOES change! There’s not much left of Isle Derniere where I camped overnight way back in 1981. The island has suffered significant storm buffering since then, with one storm cutting a swath across the middle. Granted, it’s very shallow water that runs through the cut, but over time, it could be deep enough for a sizable boat to pass. There is a proposed project to fill it in, but that’s years away . . . . slow as syrup those projects are!