Coastal Expert Blaise Pezold to Strengthen, Expand Foundation’s Environmental Initiatives
The Arlene and Joseph Meraux Charitable Foundation announced today that it has named Blaise Pezold as Coastal and Environmental Program Manager.
“We are honored to have an expert of Blaise’s caliber join the Meraux Foundation to head up our growing body of coastal and environmental programs,” said Rita Gue, the president of the Meraux Foundation. “St. Bernard Parish is on the frontline of the battle to save our coast, and we have an opportunity to become a model for the nation as a laboratory for coastal protection and restoration.”
Pezold joins the Meraux Foundation from the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, where, as an Agriculture Environmental Specialist III, he designed and implemented numerous coastal projects across southeast Louisiana. To his new role at the Foundation, Pezold brings experience managing all aspects of restoration work from the visioning and planning stages to budgeting and logistical oversight.
He also specializes in community relations to build support for coastal protection. His volunteer recruitment, training, and mobilization strategies have helped maximize the effect of each dollar spent on the many environmental projects to which he has contributed in the past.
Notably, for the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act (CWPPRA), Pezold designed the $29 million Bayou La Loutre Ridge and Marsh restoration project, for which he won two awards for outstanding service in 2016 from the St. Bernard Parish president and council, respectively.
Pezold has worked in partnership with the Meraux Foundation for years. The Foundation has sponsored and supported numerous wetland plantings managed by Pezold, and he has been a participant in many of the Foundation’s programs, including the Waters to the Sea® Mississippi River Delta Educational Initiative.
“We’ve worked with Blaise as a partner in a variety of capacities, and we are delighted that he will be joining us as a full-time employee,” Gue continued. “Blaise will greatly enrich our programs and increase our capacity and impact.”
“I am excited to be joining the Meraux Foundation, which has long been engaged in environmental projects consistent with its mission to improve quality of life for the people of St. Bernard Parish,’ said Pezold.
The environment is a key focus of Meraux Foundation initiatives, which already include several coastal restoration and education programs. Pezold will lead existing efforts as well as expand outreach to schools in St. Bernard. For example, by partnering with science and math teachers, Pezold plans to utilize plantings as an opportunity to engage high school students in mapping exercises to calculate trajectories for propagules using wind/wave currents.
“In addition to the moral urgency of protecting the environment and our homes, there is a real economic opportunity here, as well. In the coming years, a number of well-paying jobs will become available in the field of coastal restoration. We should be preparing students in St. Bernard for this work,” says Pezold. “I’m eager to start working with Meraux Foundation strategic partners Nunez Community College and St. Bernard Parish Schools to develop industry-based credentials to train future leaders in coastal studies.”
In addition to educational outreach, Pezold will employ his expertise in coalition building to design and implement the Foundation’s long-term environmental strategy.
“The parish has an opportunity to emerge as a leader in the dialogue about coastal and water issues. I want to help engage all of the different stakeholders to create a strategy that protects the coast and respects our way of life in St. Bernard,” says Pezold.
Reporting to the Foundation’s board of directors, Pezold will serve as a liaison on coastal matters between nonprofit, government, and strategic partners, including St. Bernard Parish government.
The Meraux Foundation’s current coastal and environmental programs include the Waters to the Sea® Mississippi River Delta Institute, a professional development and educational program; AgMagic on the River, an educational event presented by the LSU AgCenter; Working on the Water, a program to help fishermen grow and pursue new businesses; environmental impact investments and sponsorships; wetland plantings; and community meetings throughout the year to facilitate the discussion around coastal and environmental issues.
The Meraux Foundation is a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that was established by Arlene Meraux to benefit the community of St. Bernard Parish by leveraging its landholdings. Today, the Foundation’s board of directors is presided over by Arlene’s niece, Rita Gue, and consists of members Floyd Gue, Bill Haines, Chris Haines, and Sidney Torres, III. Guided by Arlene’s vision, the board is implementing an innovative strategy to create lasting change and build a better St. Bernard.
In addition to the customary functions of foundations, the Meraux Foundation manages, maintains, and preserves extensive and diverse landholdings. Each type of land poses complex and often delicate challenges in its preservation, protection, and use, but the Foundation aims to maximize both short- and long-term benefits for the community and ecosystem.
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