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Wetlands warrior

Kerry St. Pe Portrait

Story Update: Nicholls graduate Kerry St. Pé will retire this summer after leading the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program, housed at Nicholls, for 16 years. He was recently named an honorary member of the American Society of Landscape Architects for dedicating his career to protecting the Louisiana coastline.

When the Deepwater Horizon rig began gushing gallons of oil into the Gulf, Kerry St. Pé (BS ’73) took it personally. The Port Sulfur native’s lifework has been advocating for south Louisiana’s coastal communities, where his family has lived since 1760. As a former regional coordinator for the state’s oil-spill response team, St. Pé was not timid when national media asked his opinion on how to limit damage to the wetlands.

“My degree in marine biology allowed me to be an advocate for people in the place I love — Barataria- Terrebonne,” St. Pé says. “Thank you to Nicholls for teaching me to fight for the things I believe in.”

The battle has been a long one for St. Pé, director of the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program (BTNEP). After graduating from Nicholls, he worked for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the state Department of Environmental Quality before becoming BTNEP director in 1997. Regarded as one of the nation’s top wetlands experts, St. Pé brings fishermen, oil industry executives and politicians together to preserve the environment, jobs and the way of life along the coast.

“His passion for saving Louisiana’s wetlands has been a big reason why coastal restoration has gained attention on a national scale,” says Dr. David Boudreaux, executive director of the Nicholls Foundation. “If one day in the not-so-distant future, the inhabitants of the Bayou Region are able to say that we succeeded in rebuilding the wetlands, we will owe a huge debt of gratitude to Kerry.”

— Written by Stephanie Detillier Verdin, publications coordinator

This article originally appeared in the spring 2012 issue of The Colonel alumni magazine. Click here to read the entire issue.

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