Environmental education in southeast Louisiana
Pontchartrain Conservancy, a nonprofit organization with a mission of driving environmental sustainability and stewardship through scientific research, education, and advocacy, was established in 1989 as the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation by local community leaders and scientists to confront Louisiana’s diminishing water quality and environmental challenges. A 1989 report released by Tulane University and University of New Orleans scientists highlighted the environmental degradation of our basin—a ten-thousand-square-mile watershed encompassing sixteen parishes and more than two million people—and the inefficient structure of the ninety-plus entities responsible for restoring it. The report prompted citizens to mobilize and demand that effective steps be taken to protect our basin. Their action led to the establishment of a sole entity focused on the health of our estuary and basin: the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, now operating as the Pontchartrain Conservancy.
Our organization has seen great success over the last three decades. With a mandate to restore the water quality and health of Lake Pontchartrain, we undertook ambitious initiatives to clean waterways that feed the lake, educate the public, and advocate for measures to keep it healthy and safe—all in collaboration with local governments, municipalities, businesses, and residents. Pontchartrain Conservancy’s rallying call of “Save Our Lake” became a well-recognized motto throughout the region. By 2006, the lake was declared clean and safe for recreation upon its removal from the Environmental Protection Agency’s impaired water bodies list—the largest body of water in the United States to have ever been removed from this list. Aquatic life can once again be found in its waters, and beaches for public recreation have been reestablished on its shores.
As the decline of our coast has visibly accelerated, Pontchartrain Conservancy has extended its watershed mandate to include coastal sustainability through our Coastal and Community Programs. Our expert team of coastal scientists researches and undertakes effective measures to restore and enhance the region’s wetlands, swamps, and barrier islands. In 2006, Pontchartrain Conservancy created and coined the Multiple Lines of Defense Strategy for coastal restoration and storm protection, used frequently by federal and state agencies and coastal sustainability groups throughout the United States.
Our Water Quality Program scientists monitor and trace sources of pollution, assist in the correction of failing wastewater systems, and advocate for green infrastructure and watershed management. The New Canal Lighthouse Museum, located on the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans, functions as both Pontchartrain Conservancy’s headquarters and education center. Our Education Department continues to promote awareness and activism through public outreach initiatives and draws on Pontchartrain Conservancy’s scientific evidence and findings to develop innovative environmental curricula to educate students and teachers.
Now that we’ve entered our third decade, Pontchartrain Conservancy continues to grow our programs with the belief that people are at the center of environmental sustainability and with an understanding of the worsening coastal crisis at hand. We envision a sustainable, prosperous, and resilient Pontchartrain Basin for generations to come.
For more information about Pontchartrain Conservancy, visit scienceforourcoast.org and find us on Facebook and Instagram at @PontchartrainConservancy and on Twitter at @OurBasin.