Several new members have been added to a special coastal commission charged with advising Gov. Bobby Jindal, including some from outside of Louisiana. It’s a clear indication that the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Coastal Protection, Restoration and Conservation is evolving, as promised by the administration last month.
Local members of the commission have complained that their roles were watered down in recent years. That the commission met only twice in 2007, and not at all this year, only exacerbated those concerns. Originally created in 2002, the commission was once at the forefront of all coastal issues. But in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, other groups, such as the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, supplanted its power.
Garret Graves, Jindal’s top coastal adviser, says an effort is now under way to make the advisory commission relevant again. In short, a new role needs to be found for its membership, he says. That new role is slowly beginning to emerge, especially with the latest appointments announced by Jindal last week, including Ken Babcock of Cordova, Tenn., the senior director of conservation for Ducks Unlimited and a member of the U.S. Corps of Engineers Environmental Advisory Board; Alan Front of San Francisco, the senior vice president for federal affairs and public policy with the Trust for Public Land, a national non-profit land conservation organization; and Jim Tripp of New York City, the general counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund and a member of the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana.
State Sen. Reggie Dupre, a Democrat from Bourg who chairs the Senate Natural Resources Committee, says the new members from outside the state, and the roles they fill in their own professional lives, is an indication that the advisory commission could emerge with a more specific purview. “This is only an assumption, but it appears the advisory commission is becoming a springboard for environmental concerns,” Dupre says.
Dupre says it’s possible that the administration wants the advisory commission to become a clearinghouse for fickle conservation issues or environmental hang-ups of certain restoration or protection projects.
As for new local names, Jindal has tapped Ronald Gonsoulin of New Iberia, a veteran of the National Guard and president of Ulysse Gonsoulin and Son Inc., a sugar cane, soybean and wheat farm.