COLUMBUS, Ohio – Jason Garey could have spent the two off days in between games with D.C. United last week sightseeing in Washington or just hanging around with his teammates.
Instead, he opted to work on a cause near to him.
After the Crew’s US Open Cup semifinal victory last week, and prior to the win in an MLS game Saturday, he spent Thursday and Friday afternoons in the US Capitol meeting with officials from the Senate and House of Representatives for Ohio and Louisiana.
As a volunteer spokesman for Vanishing Paradise, a partnership of the National Wildlife Federation and Ducks Unlimited, he is seeking support for funding to protect the shrinking wetlands in his Louisiana.
Although Congress was on its summer recess, he and others from his group met with seven staffers from Louisiana and another nine from Ohio.
“We practiced in the morning and I had some spare time after that,” the Crew forward said. “I tried to put it to somewhat productive use instead of watching TV in the hotel.
“We were just doing a little lobbying, trying to educate them about coastal land loss in Louisiana and trying to get their attention and maybe have them remember me because of playing soccer when bills come up,” he added.
The wetlands are disappearing at a rate of about 15,000 acres per year and more than 2,000 square miles of Louisiana coastland has eroded in the past 100 years.
“It’s not a huge issue in the national scope, but for many people it is,” Garey said. “I think it’s important and something I can do in my spare time. It’s something I’m going to be involved with for a long time. I hope to go back [to Washington] after the MLS season ends.”
The oil spill in April brought further focus to the area where Garey and his family spent vacations fishing and his uncle, Mike Garey, runs a charter boat service.
In fact, Jason Garey was meeting with the Louisiana caucus Thursday when news came of another oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico off the state’s coast. There has been no reported major damage yet to the environment from that one.
Vanishing Paradise is among the organizations pushing for federal dollars to stop the erosion of the wetlands.
“This is a barrier between the next hurricane,” Garey said. “It costs the government $140-some billion after Katrina. If we spend $50 billion and fix the marshes, maybe we won’t have to spend $140 billion for the next hurricane.
“Obviously, the Louisiana delegation is 100 percent behind it,” he said. “It was more of an educational thing for the people of Ohio. They maybe don’t realize what’s going on down there and how it’s going to affect them as far as sea food prices, oil and natural gas and tourism.”
Garey was pleased that he had a starting point with some of the staffers.
“A few were soccer fans,” he said. “A few were D.C. United fans who were actually at the game we won on Wednesday, so they were a little disappointed.”