ST. TAMMANY PARISH, La. – Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today participated in a marsh restoration project at Big Branch National Wildlife Refuge as part of the annual National Public Lands Day. This year's event will involve more than 170,000 volunteers at 2,200 sites across the country helping to preserve and improve public lands, including neighborhood green spaces, city parks, beaches and national parks.
“National Public Lands Day is a celebration of the spirit of volunteerism that has been the foundation of conservation in America for more than a century,” Salazar said. “It's an honor to join in as Americans across the country – at Big Branch National Wildlife Refuge and beyond – collectively roll up our sleeves to protect and promote our nation's greatest treasure: our public lands.”
"National Public Lands Day brings together thousands of Americans who celebrate and serve the lands we share," said Robb Hampton, director of National Public Lands Day, a program of the National Environmental Education Foundation. "More than 2,000 sites are hosting events, and in just a few hours, the more than 170,000 volunteers participating will have contributed $15 million in improvements to our public lands. After they serve their communities, we hope they return to the parks for recreation and relaxation all year long."
Salazar is one of more than 600 volunteers who are participating in the two-week project at Big Branch to plant more than 70,000 marsh plants in the open mud flats located on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain.
The plants will stabilize the bare marsh platforms that were created by the CWPPRA Goose Point/Point Platte Marsh Creation Project, which dredged sediments from Lake Pontchartrain to create over 550 acres of marsh platform. The vegetation also will help create wildlife habitat, encourage species diversity and provide a seed source for natural regeneration.
National Public Lands Day is a program of the National Environmental Education Foundation, an organization that promotes lifelong environmental learning through a variety of programs and grants. Now in its 17th year, the day involves eight federal agencies and numerous state and local partners.
The event at Big Branch was organized by partner organizations including the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Restore America's Estuaries, For the Bayou, The Lang Foundation, The Coastal Society, and NOAA's Community Based Restoration Program.
This year, the Department of Interior highlighted 12 NPLD events as signature “Let's Move Outside” sites, a component of the First Lady's “Let's Move” campaign to end childhood obesity in a generation, encouraging children and families to be physically active on our public lands. These events took place at sites ranging from Golden Gate National Park in California to Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia to San Juan National Historic Site in Puerto Rico.
Salazar was joined by Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Water and Science Anne Castle, Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge Manager Daniel Breaux, Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuges Project Leader Ken Litzenberger, and National Public Lands Day Director Robb Hampton.
Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1994 to protect, enhance, and manage a valuable wetland ecosystem that is threatened by urban expansion from the city of New Orleans. With more than 15,000 acres, the Refuge comprises the largest undeveloped natural area along the northern shore of Lake Pontchartrain and includes sandy beaches, offshore grass beds, marshes, hardwood hammocks, and pine flatwoods.