Laundry detergent commercials usually boast how their product can remove stains and return clothes to their pre-dirty state. Well, our day on Friday read like one of those commercials in reverse. We started out with clean, sparkly clothes and brand-new boots. But by the end of the afternoon, our clothes were an entirely different color.
We spent the day planting marsh grass seedlings in Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge, near New Orleans (see map). The effort was organized by the National Wildlife Federation, with funding from a lot of other agencies. We and other volunteers planted 26,000 seedlings in an open-water area. Over the next few months, the newly-planted marsh grass will grow and stabilize the area, collecting sediment and rebuilding habitat that Hurricane Katrina had destroyed. This first video sets the scene:
We rode out in loud airboats, which made for a pretty thrilling ride. Our destination was quite serene, albeit other-worldly somehow. It was impossible to walk around — if you tried, your boot would sink down and get stuck. Bye-bye boot. So instead we had to crawl around on our hands and knees. Sometimes the submerged ground was firm and sometimes it was mushy, making the whole experience pretty funny and unpredictable (see video below).
Seedlings had been dropped all around the planting area in burlap bags. We untangled each individual seedling, and made a hole for it by punching our arms into the muck, up to our elbows or deeper. When finished, the green tops of the plants stuck out above the water. It was great to see how our efforts could make such a tangible difference.