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The story of Lake Pontchartrain and its surrounding Basin is a fascinating saga. Created at the end of the last Ice Age, this estuary is much more than just a magnificent natural resource. It has provided humans with sources of food, as well as a means of communication, transportation and commerce. These and a host of other benefits have supported the growth of New Orleans and the surrounding communities.
Today, the 1632 km2 (630 mi2) Lake Pontchartrain is the centerpiece of the 12,173 km2 (4,700 mi2) Pontchartrain drainage basin or watershed. The Basin encompasses land in 16 Louisiana parishes and 4 Mississippi counties. This vast ecological system includes lakes, rivers, bayous, forest, swamps and marshes. It is habitat for countless species of fish, birds, mammals, reptiles and plants. It is also the most densely populated portion of Louisiana with almost 1.5 million people residing immediately around the Lake.
The history of the environmental quality of the Pontchartrain Basin demonstrates that no resource should be taken for granted or exploited. As the population grew in the Twentieth Century, use and, unfortunately, abuse of this nationally important estuary also grew. By the second half of the Twentieth Century, Pontchartrain's environmental quality had deteriorated to a point that many believed unrecoverable.
Responsibility and stewardship are necessary for natural resource protection, restoration and preservation. Recognizing these needs, area citizens began the SAVE OUR LAKE movement that led to the creation of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation in 1989. The Foundation's mission is to coordinate the overall restoration and preservation of the entire Lake Pontchartrain Basin ecosystem. The Environmental Atlas of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin will become one of our tools to help accomplish that mission.
The Environmental Atlas of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin is more than a summary of Pontchartrain's ecology. It presents information about geology, land cover, types of shorelines, biological resources, flow patterns, significant storms, growth trends and more. This Atlas is more of a directory to the Basin's environment. Hopefully, it will become an easily understandable reference for students and the public as well as a readily used source for professionals.
The Atlas is a result of the efforts of many talented researchers and individuals associated with the University of New Orleans, United States Geological Survey, United States Environmental Protection Agency and other universities and agencies. Particularly, I wish to recognize Dr. Shea Penland. Dr. Penland's foresight and leadership were instrumental in creating the Atlas. On behalf of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation and citizens of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin, I wish to thank everyone who helped make the Environmental Atlas of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin a reality.Carlton Dufrechou
Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation