Emily Vuxton: Stitching Together the Unraveling Louisiana Coast

Some analyses put wetland loss at nearly 14 football fields per day.

Losing land - fast

When we think of land and habitat loss in the United States, no region is more striking and visceral than the Louisiana coast. Some analyses put wetland loss at nearly 14 football fields per day.

There are a few culprits besides global warming which experts point to on the topic: man-made levees buttressed to protect human populations against flooding have eliminated the cyclical balance of river sediment deposits in wetlands; canals built for oil-, gas-, logging-, and chemical-industry transportation dice and divide already fragile ecosystems and marshes; and once-natural processes like subsidence now exacerbate the above problems.

A personal fight

For Emily Vuxton, the Policy Director for the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL), the race against time to preserve this land hits close to home: “it’s impossible to live here and not experience firsthand the issues we’re facing. The cause is a personal one.”

Emily’s a seasoned expert on the topic with an impressive resume to boot; her latest stint before the CRCL was with the US Army Corps of Engineers as a Coastal Policy Specialist. So her turn to Louisiana’s protection was only natural, and at times to Emily, it seemed inevitable; her family has lived along the Gulf Coast for generations. “I always thought I was going to be an environmentalist because I wanted to stop my home from disappearing.”

She’s also worked in the field doing hands-on research both in and out of the water. “There was a time I was in the French Polynesia collecting species that no one has seen before. So there are a few aspects of fieldwork that are incredibly rewarding. The longer your career spans, the more you can refine where you can be most effective.” For Emily, that means her work at CRCL.

Science with a call-to-action

Right now they are advocating for sediment diversions, structures which would  revitalize wetlands with much-needed sediment from further upriver. The goal is to mimic the natural rhythms of sediment deposition that for so long has experienced anthropogenic disruptions. Elsewhere CRCL advocates for restoration action at both state and federal levels. Working in environmental advocacy and policy has its challenges, but the hurdle Emily’s team doesn’t usually face is community support.

Unlike some environmental conservation efforts, Emily’s cause garners support across the aisle in Washington, and from the community back home: “No one wants the land they’ve lived on for hundreds of years to disappear. Being on the side of the people…reaffirms what we’re doing.” Preservation isn’t so much a race against people, but time. Emily continues, “land is disappearing at an alarming rate...the question is can we work fast enough to save it?”   

Having grown up on Florida’s forgotten coast, Emily has a deeper connection than most to this land. It’s why she’s chosen FactSumo’s deck on her childhood stomping grounds. Check it out!