Sporting Council Member Receives Award

Captain Ryan Lambert honored with 2024 NWF conservation leadership award.

By Matthew Waguespack, Sportsmen Outreach Coordinator

Captain Ryan Lambert stands with others holding the award

Photo by Bill Cooksey

Our heartfelt congratulations go to Vanishing Paradise Sporting Council member Ryan Lambert who was honored this week with the National Wildlife Federation’s 2024 Conservation Leadership Award at the organization’s 88th annual meeting in Washington, D.C. The honor is bestowed each year on a leader who has given their time and talent to protect and restore wildlife, the environment, outdoor opportunities and healthy communities. Ryan’s unwavering and passionate dedication to restoring critical fish and wildlife habitat in Louisiana’s rapidly vanishing Mississippi River Delta makes him a natural fit for this distinction from NWF.

His acceptance speech illustrates what a coastal champion and field expert Ryan truly is.

“Louisiana is such a special place. Its estuary is the richest in North America. We’ve lost 2,400 square miles of land, which equates to land, but not habitat. We probably lost 10,000 square miles of habitat for wildlife and waterfowl,” Lambert said. “I’ve been a guide for 47 years, and seeing all of this disappear is so disheartening, you can’t imagine. We lose a football field of land every hour and a half. Can you imagine that?”

Ryan has partnered with NWF and other conservation groups to complete on-the-ground restoration projects to build new wetlands in Bay Denesse and an area near Neptune Pass, using the natural power of the Mississippi River to help restore the landscape. Ryan has led wetlands tours with countless local, state and federal leaders and has also spoken to congressional leaders in Washington D.C. on Louisiana’s coastal issues.

Ryan’ hands-on approach follows his belief in “Seeing is Believing,” and he puts that to practice connecting people to coastal Louisiana through field trips and eco tours to show them the benefit of reconnecting the river to its wetlands has on building and enhancing wildlife habitat.

“It’s not the awards that make us do what we do, but the rewards of watching it come back. There were 184 species of birds on this side of the river where I did this project. Instantly as soon as the habitat comes back you have rabbits, deer, pigs, nutria, coyotes, and ducks. Habitat for everything, and it’s so rewarding to see that,” Lambert said.

“We are working, and we are just in the infancy in learning how to do it. Take the Mississippi River and slow the water down so the sediment will fall and grow and build that land. It’s simple to do, but getting through the politics is the hard part,” he continued.

“That’s what I want to leave everyone here with: change your paradigm of going and being a champion for a project or going and lobbying for a project. You have everything you need. Go get a grant, hire the people, bid the project out and facility the project, do the project!” Lambert challenged his audience. “If everybody would take on their favorite project… it would be a lot more rewarding.”

Ryan started his journey as a guide in the outdoors industry 47 years ago. A lifelong sportsman and native of New Orleans, he founded Cajun Fishing Adventures in Buras, Louisiana in 1994. His expertise, work ethic and overwhelming customer satisfaction helped grow his business – and his top-notch reputation among the hunting and fishing industry – leading to Cajun Fishing Adventures being voted as one of the Top 5 fishing lodges in North America by Sportfishing Magazine. Ryan has been featured with the Outdoor Channel, Versus, ESPN, Outdoor Life, Field & Stream, Garden and Gun, Louisiana Sportsman Magazines, as well as local media, radio and TV shows in Louisiana.

After witnessing firsthand how quickly Sportsman’s Paradise was vanishing, Ryan started educating hunters and anglers on coastal land loss while guiding on the water. Fun fact: the earliest days of the Vanishing Paradise team planning our program actually happened in his Cajun Fishing Adventures lodge!

“Ryan’s passion transcends the sporting aspects of his business and gets to the very heart of the health of the wetlands and waters of the Gulf,” said Lew Carpenter, Director of Conservation Partnerships with the National Wildlife Federation and Vanishing Paradise team member. “In the decades I’ve known him, he’s been a strong and very visible champion throughout many challenges that have faced Sportsman’s Paradise – from the BP oil spill to numerous storms that have battered the coastline. This award is a well-deserved honor for a true coastal champion – and I know he’s far from done protecting people, wildlife and wild places.”

“I don’t believe Capt. Lambert has passed over any advocacy opportunity that has come his way in the past 15 years,” said Amanda Moore, senior director of NWF’s Gulf program. “Despite being a busy family man and businessman, he always makes time for the coast, including the day I met him in 2009 – at his suggested meeting place of McDonald’s – where we ate ice cream cones and I interviewed him about coastal restoration. Whether it’s a boat tour, public testimony, or a media interview, Capt. Lambert is there as one of the most passionate, talented, and reliable supporters of the delta. He never shies away from speaking up and his relentless coastal advocacy has made a difference and will continue to do so. The Vanishing Paradise and NWF Gulf team is deeply appreciative and always inspired by him. Congratulations Capt. Lambert!”

If you want to read more about Capt. Ryan Lambert and Vanishing Paradise, click on the links below: