CRCL Coastal Stewardship Awards

Before The Saltwater Came

Way back in 2004, I penned a little children’s picture book about 30 years of wetland loss that took place since I moved to lower Terrebonne Parish of south Louisiana. The book became a reality when, in February 2005, I held the first hardcover copy of Before the Saltwater Came.  

Since then, that little book about saltwater intrusion has paved the way for me to become known as not only a wetland advocate, but also a wetland educator, opening the doors of schools and libraries across the state.  Using a Power Point slide presentation of photos about our everyday life in these Louisiana wetlands, I have had the opportunity to introduce thousands of students, teachers, librarians, civic groups, and disaster relief volunteers not only to our environment here, but also to the associated culture and way of life.

Cypress Swamp

Those talks eventually grew into my Wetland Tour & Guide service, which enabled folks to actually go out on a boat and see our beautiful bayous, lakes, marshes, and swamps firsthand, and to see the causes of wetland loss and the resulting negative impacts.  

Here we are, ten years later, and yet another page has been turned in the life of this wetland educator.

A couple months ago, I received a call from Polly Glover, a teacher in Ascension Parish.  She introduced herself by saying that she has been using Before the Saltwater Came in her classroom of fourth graders for the past ten years.  Her enthusiasm was contagious, and compliments floored me. She shared with me how her father had been a coastal conservationist for many years when he was alive and that she is following in his footsteps, doing what she can to help restore and preserve our coastal way of life for her children and grand children. 

She is now a member of the Executive Board of the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL), which was formed in 1987 by a group of folks concerned about our vanishing wetlands and threatened coastal communities. CRCL is a hands-on, boots-on-the-ground non-profit that, among many other things, takes volunteer groups out to plant marsh grass and trees in coastal communities and on restoration projects.  

In our phone conversation, she proceeded to tell me that she wanted to nominate two people for CRCL’s 20th annual Coastal Stewardship awards.  One of those nominees was a much-deserving woman, Janet Rhodus, who formed Launch Leeville, a non-profit focused on reviving Leeville, near Grand Isle, and putting it back on the map of important coastal communities.  Janet’s accomplishments and successes after only a couple of years are numerous.  I first learned about her passion during an episode of Weekends with Whitney Vann, a Baton Rouge-based TV show.

Then, the really shocking part of my conversation with Polly unfolded.  After telling me some of the great things she had done using my book in her classes over the years, she asked me if I would allow her to also nominate me for the same award.  To say I was delighted might be an understatement, because it never occurred to me that the work I’ve done over the past ten years would qualify me for such a nomination, much less the award.

My head still reeling, I agreed to let her nominate me; and after that first phone conversation, we have stayed in close touch. She fishes in the eastern portion of the parish and expressed wanting to see my neck of the parish. To that end, she came on down to Camp Dularge earlier this month, and we went on a wetland tour together, along with her friend Rene`. We fished a little bit, too, without results; but it didn’t matter, because eating our lunch in the beautiful cypress swamp more than made up for that fact.

Polly Glover

It was my great pleasure to share the wetlands of my portion of lower Terrebonne Parish with Polly. Seeing the swamp through her eyes helped reinforce why I do what I’ve done for the past ten years in education and advocacy.  Even though I sound like a broken record, these wetlands are a valuable asset, not only to our state, but to the nation, and very much worth restoring.

Unlike the late Paul Harvey, famed for saying, “And you know the rest of the story”, I won’t leave you hanging about the awards.  Janet Rhodus received one of six Coastal Stewardship awards out of 32 very well-qualified nominees.  Like me, Janet is a concerned and caring citizen who wants to preserve the culture and way of life of the community of Leeville.  Like Janet, I’m not a scientist, or government official, and I don’t have Dr. in front of my name like many of the other nominees and recipients.

In spite of those things, a group of people in the realm of coastal restoration and preservation thought something I have done over the past ten years was significant enough to also select me as an award recipient.  I cannot even begin to put into words how much that means to me.

This past Friday night was the awards banquet in Baton Rouge, LA, where I met Janet Rhodus for the first time, and what an honor to meet her and to see the other four recipients.  Again, for sake of space, you can read more about them here, and I hope you do so.

Coastal Stewardship Award

Coastal Stewardship Award









I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you a little about this award.  This is a great blue heron, hand carved from wood by Rock Zeringue, who has been carving these awards for years.  Please follow this link to read more about this amazing and talented man.  To me, it is no coincidence that the great blue heron is on the big sign in front of Camp Dularge and part of the Bayou Woman Adventures logo.  It is significant, right?

Janet, Polly, Wendy
Janet, Polly, Wendy

So, to my new friend, Polly Glover, I’d like to offer a million thanks for purchasing the book ten years ago, for using it in the classroom, and for making such a huge impact in the wetland education of so many children over the years.  What is even more profound is the fact that Polly’s students are challenged, something I didn’t know until Friday night.

As if receiving this award wasn’t gift enough, Polly also gave me a gift I will certainly treasure for years to come.

Student Letter
Just one of many letters from her students

She gave me a binder filled with letters from her students about why they thought I should receive a Coastal Stewardship Award, and I was touched beyond words.  Writing doesn’t come easily to most of us, and for these students, penning these letters in their own hands is truly a noteworthy accomplishment.  So to each of these wonderfully gifted students, I offer a big bayou thank you!  Your letters encourage me to keep on doing what I’m doing and to continue to push for the restoration of coastal Louisiana.

Many thanks, again, to Polly Glover and the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana.  Together, let us continue our fight for the restoration of coastal Louisiana!

For the wetlands, 


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  1. Woohoo!! What a wonderful recognition, and so well-deserved! Especially as you are able to get kids thinking about these issues: it means they will take this awareness forward into the future.

    Bet your family are SOOO proud of you too! Big hugs from over here :-)))) xxxx

    1. Yes, they are proud, as are my close friends! I’m trying to ride this high for as long as possible!!!

  2. congratulations to you. What a great award. So wonderful to see you receive something you have truly earned. I am mighty proud of you for the work you do. Bill

  3. Congratulations! It is so wonderful to receive recognition for the work of your hands and to know that it has impacted so many others. Blessings to the teacher who saw the value of your book and used it to influence other generations. As a former teacher I complement you both on making a difference in environmental issues.

    1. So true about the teacher!!! I’m so grateful to her for caring enough to teach these issues to her students!

  4. you may not have the “Dr.” in front of your name but you have something more astonishing and that’s “CAPTAIN” I, like the rest of us that know you, are so very very proud of you, what a great honor to be nominated for such a prestigious award. I’m so grateful Amy bought me your book when she did. Now I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to find it!!! We need more advocates for our environment, wetlands and wildlife. On behalf of all the water fowl, woodland creatures, swamps, and trees THANK YOU FOR WHAT YOU HAVE DONE and please continue to keep saving the wetlands. Again, Congratulations!

    1. Thank you, Sharon, and I will continue to do everything I can! And hopefully some new endeavors along the way.

    1. I miss you, too, Kim, although our time was brief. I hope you can return one day and ride back out to the swamp with me!

  5. Wow! Congratulations!!! I love that you got a binder full of letters from kids. Kid can hit you straight in the heart with their honesty and sincerity. I can’t believe it’s been 10 years that we have known each other. You really are making a difference in the wetlands with all that you do. Keep working from your heart!

    1. This year marks 11 years since we met, Kim, at the Paddle Bayou Lafourche in Nov. 2004, when my book was just a galley proof. It took great courage for me to show it to you and ask for your opinion, but it was pre-destined to be! How did I know you were such a wetland advocate??? Thanks again for being my friend all these years!

  6. I am sure that you are very deserving of this great award. I, too, love the bayous and the beauty of our land. Thank you for the great work that you do in helping to protect this land.

    Kathleen Cuneo

    1. Hi Ms. Kathleen, it is great to here from someone who lives nearby. I will continue to do all that I can to bring awareness to our beautiful parish. Thank you for all you’ve done keeping your area clean and safe, too!

  7. Congratulations! I will broadcast it all over Cocodrie. You deserve every award because you educate so many people on the wetlands. Take Care!!

    1. Thank you, Etta! Kay and I were hoping to go down this Friday evening and Sat. morning to take photos for you, but looks like we might get rained out.

  8. This is very exciting to hear. Your hard work has really paid off with this award. Congratulations! Keep up the good work educating the public. I just wish more people on the Federal Gov. level read your blog or Facebook page. Maybe then some resources for restoration would become available.

    1. I’m just one little peon in the grand scheme of things, Steffi. I wish the same things, though! Thanks so much!

  9. Wendy. I’m not sure what to say about your beautiful, kind, sincere words. Who would have thought that the cypiere and LaLoutre would resonate memories of my childhood spent walking Sabine pass, Grand Isle, Goose Point amongst others? Your book a timeless piece dedicated to our Coast. You and Janet nor myself may not hold PhDs but we CARE! CARING FOR OUR COAST IS THE ONLY WAY FUTURE GENERATIONS WILL KNOW OUR COAST! On behalf of the Board of the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana may I say a heartfelt Congratulations and now call on all your readers to stand up and be the new voice for advocacy. We cannot change what we do not stand up for. Words are no longer enough. And may I add I’m honored to call you and Janet my friends!

  10. Avast! This is wonderful news – and mightily well deserved!
    The QM & I and Pyrates everywhere raise a tankard and salute ye for all ye do to educate, preserve, restore, renew and share the beauty o’ the Louisiana Bayou country! Making folks aware o’ the importance o’ wetlands everywhere, encouraging them to take an active part in their restoration & preservation.
    We are grateful for yer friendship, support and the adventures ye share with us…proud to be yer mates and to have ye as an important part o’ our Crew!

    …and Ms. Polly Glover, we salute ye too – and all Educators who love their calling and continue to share their knowledge, that we may all benefit from it.

  11. Congratulations on your award ! And thanks for your great efforts to preserve our coasts & wetlands ! Love your site ;
    I love fishing n don’t get to do much anymore, so reading about it is almost as good . Keep up the great work !

    1. Thanks so much, Jo. Sorry you can’t fish much any more. I know you miss it! You can continue to do so vicariously through us! So I better get back on that water soon! BW

  12. What a wonderful, well-deserved moment of recognition. One of the thing that occurs to me is the way our “work” can keep right on working, even when we think it lies in the past.

    It’s also a reminder that there is a role for real books in these cyber-crazy days. It’s important to have something that can be passed from hand to hand, picked up, carried about. Another bit of proof is that binder of letters from the kids. If they had sent you emails instead, it wouldn’t have been the same. I still have a letter from two of my students in my sailing scrapbook. Those are the sort of treasures that never lose their lustre.

    Carry on! Who knows what the next decade with bring? Or Lake De Cade, for that matter!

    1. So right you are, Linda. No matter how tight the budget was, I always managed to add to the children’s home library, because no matter how bad things get, one can ALWAYS refer to a book for inspiration, knowledge, instruction, and guidance. Books are my treasures and always will be! (I love the pun!)

  13. Hey everybody, I just updated the Press and Media page with a few new article links under the “About Bayou Woman” section. One about the award and another about the 5th year anniversary of the oil spill and then ongoing wetland loss. Enjoy!