The Challenge / The Solution / Why BISCO?
At the turn of the 19th Century President Thomas Jefferson sent his emissaries to France to purchase the City of New Orleans because he recognized its unique and important value to the fledgling country. At the mouth of the largest river on the continent, Jefferson knew that it was in America’s best interests to gain possession of this delta that opened up the center of North America to expansion and commerce. Instead of just New Orleans, the United States ended up with almost 2/3rd of the entire continent, which still has to rank as one of the best property deals in all of history.
By the time the “Americans’ started moving into the new “Louisiana Purchase,” the delta region was already a melting pot of diverse cultures. Each diverse culture added a different flavor to the new country and blended together to form the unique “gumbo” of cultures that inhabit the delta today. Indigenous peoples, French, Spanish, Canary Islanders (Islenos), Africans, Germans, Filipinos, Croatians, Italians. All became enmeshed in the delta and coast, to become a part of the ecosystem, to become one with the land and sea.
Since the early part of the 20th Century this unique gumbo of cultures has been endangered through the processes of coastal land loss and now sea level rise. Along with the disruption of the ecosystem goes a disruption in the way of life of the Bayou Region. With the snowballing effects of multiple environmental disasters, these coastal communities, which depend greatly on local seafood as a staple of life, lifestyle and economy, are impacted by the increased perception locally, nationally and internationally, that all of the Gulf seafood is unsafe.
The challenge to coastal communities is complex and involve multiple factors and entities. Community Organizing is needed but difficult in the region where the major industry that is the top economic driver for the entire region is a major part of the problem. This serves to severely limit local or regional funding opportunities for nonprofits working to bring about changes that may cause an impact to this industry.
BISCO believes that education is key to developing a voice for change in the coastal area. One of our successful advocacy campaigns was recognition of the principle that coastal Louisiana is a “regional environmental justice community.” We are working to educate community members on the historical patterns that continue to shape the ineffective representation for sustainability and justice. For example, EJ communities typically have poor educational systems and a large number of people living at or below the poverty line. This is true of our region and plays an important part in what is happening today. Education is key, and we are working on informal educational programs to community residents in efforts to bring about the uplifting of voices for change.
BISCO is uniquely situated and prepared to organize for change. Organizing is our business. We have created and practiced our own model of organizing and have used it to the communities’ advantage many times since our inception. Our greatest asset is our network of relationships with residents, groups and agencies at local, state, regional and national levels. We also have a significant membership to call upon through our 19 Covenant Congregations. Also to our advantage is our diverse staff and their standing as lifelong residents of the Bayou Region. Current staffing includes diversity as well. This ensures our knowledge of the sometimes need for deeply understanding the cultures themselves, a knowledge that is missing from groups without lifetime residents as local staff.
OUR ENVIRONMENTAL WORK
Education and Outreach, as well as advocacy, related to the following:
- Environmental Justice
- National Environmental Policies, such as WRDA, NRDA, CWA, RESTORE Act, OPA90, Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force Report, BP Oil Commission Report, Gulf Coast Council Report
- Louisiana Master Plan, 2007, 2012, Framework Development Team, Community Focus Group
- Local Environmental Issues and Events
WHAT GOVERNMENTAL OR OTHER ENTITIES DO WE ADDRESS RELATED TO THESE ISSUES?
- U.S.EPA, Region 6
- U.S.EPA, Gulf of Mexico Program
- Gulf of Mexico Alliance (GOMA)
- GOMA Underserved and Underrepresented Populations Priority Interest Team
- GOMA Community Resilience Priority Interest Team
- Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority
- The Water Institute of the Gulf
- Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality
- Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program
- Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force
- Gulf Coast Restoration Council
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
- Terrebonne Parish Consolidated Government
- Lafourche Parish Consolidated Government
- Terrebonne Levee Districts
- Lafourche Fresh Water Districts
NONPROFITS AND OTHER ENTITIES WE WORK WELL WITH ON ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES:
- Oxfam America's Coastal Communities Partners: Bayou Grace Community Services, Zion Travelers Community Corporation, MQVN (Mary, Queen of Vietnam, Community Development Corporation), Geaux Fish Coalition, STEPS Coalition, Coastal Women for Change
- Bayou History Center, Inc.
- Dillard University's Deep South Center for Environmental Justice
- Gulf Restoration Network
- Gulf Future Coalition
- Boat People SOS
- National Wildlife Federation, Louisiana NWF
- Sierra Club, Louisiana Sierra Club
- Natural Resources Defense Council
- National River Keepers, South Louisiana River Keepers, Atchafalaya River Keepers
- The Nature Conservancy
- Mobile Bay Waterkeepers
- Gulf of Mexico Foundation
TRIBAL GROUPS WE WORK WELL WITH ON ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES:
- Biloxi Chitimacha Confederation of Muskogean:
Bayou Lafourche Band of Biloxi Chitimacha
Grand Caillou-Dulac Band of Biloxi Chitimacha
Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi Chitimacha
- Pointe-au-Chiens Indian Tribe
- United Houma Nation