The Louisiana Environmental Research Center (LERC) at McNeese was approved in 1990 by the Board of Regents for the purpose of conducting research focused on environmental problems of importance to southwest Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico region and to provide information and data to other agencies, researchers and industry on the impact of environmental hazards. The US Air Force donated nearly four acres of property and a former radar station facility near the McNeese Farm for the Wetlands Station's on-going research. The building has been renovated and houses some of the LERC research labs, including a greenhouse. LERC studies and research efforts historically have been directed at wetland restoration, ecology, and the environmental effects of oil spills.
Currently, in line with the State's Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast, LERC's mission is to conduct basic and applied research, accumulate/disseminate information, and to create awareness through education on environmental issues and concepts related to wetland restoration/remediation with a primary emphasis on the Chenier Plain. The Center is involved in on-going environmental studies involving the Calcasieu Ship Channel and the Gulf of Mexico.
According to the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, "The State of Louisiana contains three million acres of coastal wetlands and can be considered a working coast. Home to two million people, it supports vital ecosystems, national energy security, thousands of jobs and a unique culture. However, wetlands loss, erosion, subsidence, climate change, sea level rise, storms and storm surge, drought, repeated flooding, hypoxia and saltwater intrusion all threaten the sustainability of Louisiana’s coast. If sustainability is not restored to the coastal ecosystem, land will continue to be lost at a rapid rate, and critical infrastructure will be damaged or destroyed. Pipelines, offshore support centers, and other facilities constructed for inland conditions will be subject to the open water of the Gulf of Mexico. Fisheries and wildlife stocks will decline as spawning, breeding, and foraging grounds are lost to the Gulf, and the nation will lose priceless habitat whose intrinsic value is recognized the world over."
McNeese is ideally located in a cornucopia of natural resources essential to the sustainability of Louisiana’s coastline. Available to McNeese in the strategically located Southwest Louisiana landscape are: estuarine (Gulf Coast, Sabine River, Calcasieu Estuary, Mermentau Basin, Long-Leaf pine Savanna, agricultural (rice, sugar cane, livestock), mineral (offshore and onshore oil and gas production), industrial (plastics, oil and gas refineries, shipping industry), and natural resources (wetlands, wildlife, eco-tourism, Coastal tall grass prairie). These resources all play a major role in the sustainability of the Coast. Hurricane Rita has brought to the forefront the need to protect these valuable resources for both our local needs as well as national interests.