To listen to Sharon Litwin’s interview with Doug Meffert on WWNO radio, click here.
There’s a brand new Louisiana outpost of one of the world’s major environmental organizations, and New Orleans resident Doug Meffert is going to lead it.
“Audubon Louisiana is a firm commitment by the National Audubon Society to the state of Louisiana in terms of long-term conservation and coastal restoration,” he says about an organization whose involvement in Louisiana dates back to 1924. That was when the National Audubon Society acquired the Paul J. Rainey Sanctuary in Vermilion Parish, a 26,000-acre rest stop for migrating birds and a natural habitat for deer, geese, otter and muskrat. And while there have long been numerous Audubon Society chapters across Louisiana, with more than 3,600 members, there has never been a statewide national office.
A self-proclaimed Air Force brat, Doug, who holds a doctorate in environmental science and engineering, remembers how he first became aware of environmental issues.
“We had just moved back to the Unites States,” he says. “My parents bought a television; I had never even seen a television. But about that time, around 1970 or ’72, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) had been formed and they had a sort of EPA program for tots on TV. Ever since then I have been an environmentalist.”
That influence stayed with him through a college stint at Tulane University, where he obtained a bachelor of engineering degree and then an MBA, followed by a doctorate from UCLA.
Returning to New Orleans in 1994, Doug worked as an environmental engineer and litigation specialist, joining Tulane University first as a policy consultant and then as a member of a team working with the university’s river coastal research project.
Now, after 15 years with Tulane, Doug has taken the reins of one of the newest major national initiatives of the Audubon Society. Working with already-in-place society chapters across this state, Audubon Louisiana will focus on large-scale coastal and gulf restoration as part of the Mississippi River Delta Restoration initiative. Additionally, working with an alliance of partners including the Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, Audubon Louisiana will focus on the protection of our region’s many globally significant bird areas.
Raising a higher level of awareness about the critical needs of coastal restoration is a major part of Doug’s new job. And, while all alliance partners agree we’re running out of time, all hope that it is not too late and that by working together, this critical issue, not just for Louisiana and the Gulf Coast, but for the entire country, can be addressed.
Sharon Litwin is president of NolaVie.