LSU’s Coastal Roots Program Helps 26,000 School Kids Fight Louisiana Land Loss

July 01, 2021

Raising Coastal Stewards

Hundreds of miles of marshes and barrier islands buffer Louisiana from the Gulf of Mexico. These vast, wild wetlands protect people, homes, and businesses on the coast as well as inland.

“Contrary to what some might think, our coastal land loss is mostly interior marsh land loss,” said Pam Blanchard, LSU Coastal Roots program director and LSU School of Education associate professor.

In part, storms have eroded the wetlands. The land also sinks, or subsides, which naturally occurs in deltas. And building levees along the Mississippi River has cut off the flow of mud and sediment that had naturally rebuilt and offset subsidence in the coastal wetlands over millennia.

Today, as Louisiana’s coastal wetlands disappear into the open ocean, so does our protection from hurricanes, storm surge, and flooding that impacts everyone.

“It was amazing to me that people did not realize how vulnerable coastal Louisiana was and still is,” Blanchard said. “I realized people just didn’t get that it really is a crisis.”

Her solution is to continue to invest in education and restoration efforts with elementary, middle, and high school youth. For the past 21 years, Blanchard has run the LSU Coastal Roots program, organizing over 500 field trips for more than 26,000 Louisiana students to plant at least 200,000 grass plugs and trees to help fight coastal erosion.

St. Paul’s Episcopal students

St. Paul's Episcopal school students from New Orleans set out to plant during the 500th Coastal Roots planting trip in 2021.

– Pam Blanchard / LSU

“[LSU’s Coastal Roots program] has become so ingrained into our school that students coming up through the grades can’t wait to participate in the program.  I cannot picture the school of Pierre Part Elementary without it. Many students comment on how the feeling of making a difference, no matter how small, is the first step in making a change for a better community or state.”

John Giambrone, science teacher at Pierre Part Elementary in Assumption Parish