Resource Management

Painted Bunting courtesy John Flores

Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge is managed to sustain healthy representative habitats of this region —bottomland hardwood forests, bayous, swamps, and wetlands – to provide high quality and diverse habitat to support neotropical songbirds, the Louisiana black bear, and other native fish and wildlife species.

Some native wildlife species need large blocks of habitat to support their needs and assure healthy populations. As land is converted to agriculture and development, connectivity between habitats is reduced, making it more difficult to maintain wildlife populations.

The Atchafalaya Basin is part of the largest contiguous system of bottomland hardwood forest and freshwater swamps in North America. The Refuge’s wetlands and forests of oak, elm, and hickory are key to supporting many native species that have declined with habitat fragmentation, including the Louisiana black bear; the Swainson's, nothern parula and prothonary warbler; swallow-tailed kite; and wood thrush. The Atchafalaya is a major bird corridor for fall and spring hemispheric migrations and the Refuge has been noted as a Globally Important Bird Area by the American Bird Conservancy.

Resource management activities on the Refuge include:

  • Silvicultural treatments to provide diverse forest habitat for neotropical songbirds. Good songbird habitat will include a mosaic of canopy cover that has mixed understory and midstory vegetation and openings in the forest. These elements are needed for nesting, foraging, and escape cover.
  • Silvicultural treatments to encourage hard and soft mast (nuts and fruits) producing plant species that provide food for the Louisiana black bear and many other wildlife species.
  • Restoration of habitat by removing invasive species. Chinese tallow tree is particularly problematical as it provides no wildlife value while replacing native vegetation.
  • Water management in the Greentree Resevoir. This area of bottomland timber is flooded periodically to provide food and cover for wintering waterfowl. This activity also supports nesting and brood rearing success for resident wood ducks. 
  • An area of moist soil west of the Greentree Resevoir is maintained to provide annual grasses and other plants for high quality winter forage for waterfowl.
  • The Bay Denny Natural Area is set aside as a "passively managed" area, where natural processes are allowed to occur with a minimum of disturbance and wildlife has sanctuary from human contact.