BY JOE MACALUSO
Advocate Outdoors writer
March 16, 2013
There are good-cause volunteers, and then there’s John Walther.
Because he’s dedicated so much of his free time to advocate, coordinate and direct the building of as many as a dozen inland artificial reefs across coastal Louisiana, Walther received the Governor’s Award, the Conservationist of the Year, during a Saturday night banquet in Baton Rouge.
The fete is the highlight of the 74th annual Louisiana Wildlife Federation’s convention.
LWF executive director Rebecca Triche said a panel selected Walther for the group’s highest award from among nominees in several categories.
Walther heads a committee for Coastal Conservation Association-Louisiana.
Walther’s award is statuette of a bald eagle.
“The Governor’s Award is presented annually to the person or organization deemed to have made the most outstanding contribution toward the protection and wise use of the state’s natural resources among nominees submitted by the public,” Triche said.
Walther’s response was typical for the soft-spoken Thibodaux native.
“This goes much deeper than being proud of our accomplishments,” Walther said.
“It brings a spotlight on a cause, on coastal causes, on coastal issues and what we can do about it.
“As a volunteer in any conservation organization, CCA, LWF or Ducks Unlimited, we know there are issues that need action, and all of us need to roll up our sleeves and take action. We need to participate in these groups and support them with membership, because we all know there are power in numbers,” Walther said.
Walther was recognized for leading a ground-breaking effort to use recycled concrete materials to construct the Brad Vincent Reef in Calcasieu Lake and a reef in Breton Sound that used materials from Buras High School that was damaged beyond repair by Hurricane Katrina.
Walther has also been a leader in CCA’s participation in the Derelict Crab Trap Removal Program.
Five other awards were handed out at the joint LWF/National Wildlife Federation event.
- St. Mary Parish 4-H for its Black Bear Awareness Project that established a multi-year collaboration to educate and involve the youth in the parish to make the parish’s citizenry in the recovery of the endangered Louisiana black bear.
- The website http://kids
lovethegulf.org. Rory and Maeve McCracken raised money for wildlife recovery efforts in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. They also published “G is for the Gulf,” a wildlife education book for children.
- Marsh Dog, the Baton Rouge-based company, established in 2012, that produces high-quality dog treats made from nutria, a plan that uses the carcasses of the fur-bearing animals and creates a greater demand for nutria, which helps reduce the negative impact of nonnative animal in the coastal marshes.
- Bayou Grace Community Services, of Chauvin, for involving local and national support in what Triche said was, “volunteer projects, advocacy and education efforts to support restoration of the Barataria and Terrebonne estuaries.
- Michael Balboni, a forest supervisor with the Kisatchie National Forest, for what Triche said was, “managing successful conservation improvements, including the recent preservation of natural prairies in Winn Parish and a highly successful banding and protection program for endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers.”
The LWF, established in 1940, is the state’s oldest conservation organization.
The convention will adjourn Sunday after delegates debate, then vote up or down, on 14 resolutions ranging from Atchafalaya Basin water management bass limits, to feral hogs, black bear management and addressing the need for action to control expanding populations of nonnative Asian carp in state waters.
The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and Louisiana Sea Grant are teaming with CCA-Louisiana for the Derelict Crab Trap Removal on March 9 at Breton Sound Marina in Hope-dale.
The LDWF has set aside the period from 6 a.m. March 9 to 6 a.m. March 18 for removing abandoned crab traps in St. Bernard Parish waters.
The groups are asking for volunteers to participate March 9.
The Derelict Crab Trap Program began nine years ago, and efforts by the state and volunteer groups have removed more than 22,000 abandoned traps from state waters.
LDWF managers posted rules for the St. Bernard removal, which followed a similar effort in Plaquemines Parish this weekend.
LDWF and LSG workers will be at Breton Sound Marina starting at 8:30 a.m. March 9 to distribute maps and supplies to volunteers, then assist in offloading any recovered traps.
Crabbers have been instructed to remove traps before the clean-up period, which means remaining crab traps in the area can be removed and discarded.
Other rules restrict anyone removing crab traps to have any trap outside the closed area.
For details, go to the LSG’s website: http://www.laseagrant.org/crabtraps/.
CRCL needs names
The Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana is asking for nominations for its Coastal Stewardship Awards for 2013.
CRCL spokesman Scott Madere said individuals and organizations can be nominated, and that volunteers, students, researchers, sportsmen, governmental and business leaders and coastal activists have been past recipients.
Honorees will be presented at the 18th annual Coastal Stewardship Awards Program on May 10 at the Hilton Capitol Center in Baton Rouge.
Nominations can be submitted in Lifetime Achievement, Distinguished Achievement and Coastal Stewardship categories. There can be multiple recipients in all three categories.
Nomination forms are available via the Coalition’s website http://www.crcl.org. Deadline is March 4.