Over the last century, the bayous, swamplands and forested wetlands of Louisiana were cleared, channeled and drastically altered to make room for farms and industry. As development spread, the state’s wildlife – including ducks, songbirds and the Louisiana black bear -- have seen their habitats shrink apace.
The toll is apparent even on national wildlife refuges, areas set aside by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service specifically to protect and conserve wildlife.
“Every day, we hear about the impacts of deforestation in the Amazon or Indonesia,” says The Conservation Fund’s Louisiana state director Ray Herndon, “but it has happened in the Gulf Coast area, too. Migratory bird populations have lost more than 24 million acres of bottomland hardwood forest habitat over the last century along the Red River and lower Mississippi River valleys. Habitat destruction is more pronounced here than in any other area of the United States.”
Less than 5 million acres of bottomland hardwood forest remains.
Ducks and geese fly above wetlands at Grand Cote National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana. The refuge is an important rest stop for migrating birds making their way from Alaska to the Gulf of Mexico and back along the Mississippi Flyway. The Conservation Fund is helping the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service restore the historic bottomland hardwood forests that feed and shelter shorebirds, blackbirds, warblers and other birds. Credit: Stacy Shelton/USFWS.
The Fund and the Service, along with energy companies and other partners, are reversing that trend. The goal is to restore the landscape that was degraded by overuse, to benefit both people and wildlife.
More than half the 80,000 acres of reforested or restored land in the Southeast is on 12 national wildlife refuges in Louisiana. The Fund, Trust for Public Land, The Nature Conservancy and other partners have also helped the Service add about 31,400 acres of mostly unproductive farmland to its refuges in Louisiana. The Red River National Wildlife Refuge, established in 2000 in western Louisiana, was the first refuge created through carbon sequestration partnerships.
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