Jason Garey's goal: Saving Louisiana wetlands
It's not unusual for athletes to lend their names to worthy causes, but too often, they are contrived efforts orchestrated by agents and publicists. Here's one that's genuine: A campaign by Columbus Crew forward Jason Garey to bring attention to the wetlands in his native Louisiana.
Though his soccer career took him north, his heart has remained deep in Bayou Country. And the damage inflicted by the BP oil spill has stirred his emotions and prompted him to speak out about the fragile nature of the environment. Garey's family has strong ties to the waterways and he learned to fish and crab on Grand Isle, which lies on a barrier island separating Barataria Bay from the Gulf of Mexico.
It's not the first time that Garey has taken action. While at Maryland during the Terrapins' 2005 NCAA championship campaign, he was active in relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina.
With his home state in mind, he penned this column for the Insider:
The marshes and waterways of south Louisiana, home to thousands of species of wildlife, are being affected by the BP oil spill. The fish, crustacean, waterfowl and scores of other species are dying everyday because of this man-made disaster. The oil spill has forced the plight of Louisiana marshlands to the forefront of newscasts around the country and world. But the corollary to this spill is the increased awareness that it must bring to the dying marshes of Louisiana.
Put simply, they have been dying for almost a century. The channeling and construction of levees by the Army Corps of Engineers along the mighty Mississippi after the great flood of 1927 has prevented the silt-laden water from replenishing the marshes with sediment for almost a century. This, combined with saltwater intrusion from the dredging of oil field canals in the marsh, and the natural tendency of the marshes to sink or subside, has allowed salt water to penetrate into areas of fresh and brackish water. This kills the marsh and, as a result, Louisiana loses an area akin to two football fields of coastline every hour.
More than 2,300 square miles of marsh have been lost, and that was before the oil spill. This has had a disastrous effect on local wildlife and seafood resources. Thirty percent of our nation's seafood is harvested in these areas: Fish, shrimp, oysters and blue crabs are a few of the major resources from Louisiana waters, and the vanishing marshes and barrier islands are the state's first line of defense against hurricanes.
The economy of the region has been devastated by the spill, but a failure to see the long-term impact of neglecting to solve the problem of disappearing marshes will be even more profound on the economy, people and way of life in Louisiana. I grew up in south Louisiana, fishing, shrimping, and crabbing in the marsh. My uncle Mike is a charter boat captain who has been fishing the marshes for more than 40 years. We have seen firsthand the impact of coastal erosion. Now may be the best chance to save this national treasure, which has been called "America's Wetlands." Projects that divert sediment-rich water from the Mississippi have produced noticeable results, but we need more diversions and a large-scale program to rebuild the marsh and the barrier islands that protect them. We must also hold the oil companies responsible to fill in the unused canals that act as a highway for the saltwater intrusion that kills the marsh.
Visit www.vanishingparadise.org to learn more, and call, e-mail or write your congressman to demand restoration of our wetlands and protection of wildlife. People all over our country depend on them.
Aside from his writing efforts to draw attention to the issues, Garey says he will be part of a national radio campaign and plans to make appearances later this year.
For more on the government efforts, read this story from this morning's Washington Post.
July 19, 2010; 12:06 PM ET
Categories: MLS | Tags: BP oil spill, Jason Garey, Louisiana wetlands
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