When the boy scouts of Acadiana nestle the first of 4,457 bald cypress trees into the ground of the Atchafalaya Basin Feb. 20, they will be attempting to undo the massive logging of the 20th century that virtually clear cut the 1000-year-old virgin cypress forest. This is not a frivolous undertaking. The initiative, created to celebrate a century of scouting in the U.S., is a long-range service project, 100 years to be precise.
“At our next centennial,” says Gary McGoffin, president of the Evangeline Area Council, referring to the 2110 anniversary, “we want future scouts to open the time capsule, see exactly what we planted, see where the trails are we created, where you can hike, where you can camp, where you can paddle. Feb. 20 is just the beginning.”
Quite a beginning indeed. The Evangeline Area Council of scouts has partnered with the Louisiana departments of Natural Resources, Culture Recreation and Tourism, Wildlife and Fisheries, Forestry and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to effect change in the basin. Louisiana’s Atchafalaya Basin, over 800,000 acres of wetlands, is the largest freshwater swamp in the U.S. Of that territory, 500,000 acres lie in Acadiana, within St. Landry, St. Martin, Iberia and St. Mary parishes.
The effort also reflects back on the state and how money is spent on the basin. In the past, the Atchafalaya Basin Program, run by DNR, spent millions on programs that built museums, welcome centers, boat docks and even a golf course with funds that were targeted for improved water quality in the basin. The scouting effort is helping to return the focus to the nuts and bolts of restoring natural water flow and reforesting damaged areas. Since Hurricane Andrew downed hundreds of acres of trees nearly 20 years ago, the basin has been clogged with deadfalls, exacerbated by hurricanes Lili, Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike. When the scouts decided to plant trees — 4,457 cypresses to represent the same number of scouts in the eight Evangeline Area parishes — DNR, partnering with St. Martin Parish, took the initiative to send bulldozers in to clear the 30 acres that will be planted this February. Centennial Cypress Forest, the newly named targeted area, will grow to 180 acres as the project continues over the course of 2010.
Feb. 20 is just the kickoff. By next spring, McGoffin says, the scouts will publish a five-year plan. But there are already glimmers of what is to come.
Art Hawkins, executive for the Evangeline Area Council, intends to turn the basin into an outdoor laboratory for generations of Acadiana youths. As explorers of the wilderness, scouts will log where they go, how many days and nights spent in the basin, how many miles hiked or canoed, how much trash they pick up, how many trees they planted. All the information will go into a computer program accessible to scouts across the country. Hiking trails, primitive camp sites and canoe trails will be noted, although the effort promotes no-trace, no-impact camping. And special patches designating work done in the basin will be awarded.
For decades, scouts have looked for adventure far afield. The vision, says McGoffin, is to refocus local scout troops on the wilderness we have in our own back yard. “We see the basin as a high adventure playground,” says McGoffin. “We want the basin to become synonymous with scouting.”
Saturday, Feb. 20, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Butte LaRose Welcome Center will be the jumping off place for tree planting. Scouts will hike about 500 feet to plant substantial trees — 5 to 6 feet tall. Meanwhile, a cultural mini-festival will take place at the welcome center, with music by Michael and David Doucet, Cedric Watson, Hadley Castille and the Sons of Voodoo. State departments plan to erect tented displays about wildlife, hunting and fishing, and other activities in the basin. To register as a Pack, Troop or Family to participate in this project, go to www.eacbsa.org.
A federal jury found attorney Daniel Stanford guilty Friday afternoon on eight of 13 counts for his role in the Curious Goods conspiracy.
Lafayette City-Court Judge Francie Bouillion has served on the bench for two decades since winning a special election to replace Judge Kaliste Saloom when he retired in 1994.
The magazine's senior football writer also predicts a break-out year for Saints fourth-year running back Mark Ingram.
Gulf Coast ceremonies marking the ninth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina have begun.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says there is little known about the effects of tiger prawns on indigenous Louisiana shrimp. But, officials say the reports they're seeking will help state biologists monitor the distribution of the prawns and determine the possible presence of spawning populations.
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh rested his regulars and watched with delight as Ray Rice's backups ground out 214 yards rushing in a 22-13 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Google vs. Amazon in drone race; more deaths in Syria; Russia escalates Ukraine conflict and more national and international news for Friday, August 29, 2014.
High-profile criminal defense attorney Daniel Stanford awaits his fate in the Curious Goods conspiracy trial.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is set to put the kibosh on the legal ownership of monkeys trained to help the disabled, and the agency wants to know what you think.
A federal judge on Thursday asked lawyers battling over Louisiana's new, restrictive abortion law for an agreement that apparently could let clinics stay open — at least for a while — after the law takes effect Sept. 1.
An abortion rights organization wants a federal judge to block enforcement of Louisiana's new abortion law while its lawsuit to overturn the law makes its way through court.
Republican presidential prospects Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal are planning to speak at an Iowa Christian conservative event in September.
The attention surrounding Victor White III has spiked with the release of last week’s autopsy report, which has raised a number of serious questions about the night of his death and has put the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office under an increased wave of scrutiny as more national media outlets are jumping on the story, most recently seen on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show.
A group supporting taxpayer-funded private school tuition vouchers is appealing a federal judge's order that Louisiana must provide regular reports to federal officials on the state's voucher program.
The Discovery Channel has canceled reality TV star Will Hayden's popular "Sons of Guns" show after his arrest on an aggravated rape charge.
The LPSB will finally hear from the attorney it hired to investigate the superintendent at a special meeting Thursday at 4 p.m.
Authorities are investigating a report that a student there warned the principal of impending violence similar to that depicted in the movie "The Purge."
Saints cornerback Champ Bailey has played for more than a handful of playoff teams during a career that has seen him selected to 12 Pro Bowls.
Police say a 56-year-old Lafayette man walking behind a dump truck died when the truck hit him as it was backing up.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is a proud papa of new baby girl.
The books on Louisiana's last budget year have been closed, but it took a bit of borrowing from this year to make the numbers work.
The Iberia Parish Coroner responded Monday to the attention surrounding the questionable shooting of Victor White III, a black man from New Iberia who died April 2 while in the custody of local law enforcement.
Two months after lawmakers agreed to create a $40 million higher education incentive fund, no decisions have been made about how to divide the money.
With Drew Brees back healthy, the New Orleans Saints are free to work on the little things that can make the difference between a Super Bowl run and something less.