Center for Ethics and Leadership

Monday, April 20, 2009

Pressure on Alligator Bayou!

A year ago, I returned from a short visit to Baton Rouge and wrote about a swamp I had visited. Here is what I wrote:

Environmental Ethics and Entrepreneurial Leadership

When in Louisiana last week, my family and I went on a swamp tour given by Alligator Bayou. The owners, Frank Bonifay and Jim Ragland, were apparently quite successful in real estate and construction as young men. They then sold their business to purchase 1500 acres of the Alligator Bayou swamp in 1993. The swamp had been scheduled for clear cutting by a timber company. Bonifay and Ragland moved 901 acres into permanent preservation by creating the nonprofit Bluff Swamp Wildlife Refuge and Botanical Gardens. They have been working to improve their enterprise as an ecological education organization since. They give a wonderfully informative and entertaining tour. We need more capable leaders like them to put first things first, and to preserve national treasures rather than leaving them to indiscriminate development.

Now Alligator Bayou is in a legal fight with another ecologist who represents land owners in the same area. These men want to open the floodgate that would reduce water levels in the swamp and also, they claim, reduce flooding on their land. Scott Nesbit represents clients who own 6,300 acres in the Spanish Lake area (where Alligator Bayou is located). Frank Bonifay, co-owner of Alligator Bayou, says the draining will put his partner and him out of business. Nesbit says they have no right to artificially flood his clients' land.

It gets much more complicated with disputes over what is actually causing the flooding and which solution is the more ecologically sound. That the dispute crosses two parishes, Iberville and Ascension, in southern Louisiana further tangles things.

Nesbit's clients apparently want to swap land development credits (mitigation credits). These involve payment to restore wetlands for a developer who wants to fill wetlands elsewhere in the same watershed. You can keep up with the story at ://www.2theadvocate.com/news/suburban/42648442.html or Google any of the names and places in this post.

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