What We Do
Wildlife conservation is at the heart of the National Wildlife Refuge System. It drives everything we do on lands and waters managed within the National Wildlife Refuge System, from the purposes for which a is established, to the recreational activities offered, to the resource management tools used. Using conservation best practices, the Refuge System manages Service lands and waters to help ensure the survival of native wildlife species. Refuge staff use a variety of resource management techniques to maintain, recover, or enhance plants and wildlife and the habitats on which they rely at Bayou Sauvage. Prescribed burning; water management; mowing; using biological control to reduce ; and marsh grass and tree planting are ways we help native plants and wildlife to thrive on the refuge.
Management and Conservation
Wildlife Surveys: Refuge managers conduct ground and aerial wildlife surveys and vegetation surveys to monitor plant and wildlife populations and habitat use.
Water Management: Most of the refuge is located inside massive hurricane protection levees, built to hold back storm surges and prevent flooding in the low-lying city of New Orleans. The levees interrupt natural water flow patterns and challenge refuge managers to maintain productive wetland habitats in this altered environment. A network of pumps and flap gates provides a means to regulate water levels to encourage the summer growth of emergent grasses that later provide food for waterfowl during the winter.
Forest Restoration: Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 inundated the refuge with several feet of water and severely damaged the mature hardwood forest at Bayou Sauvage’s Ridge Trail area. Many of the trees that remained standing, could not survive the salinity brought by storm surge. This shady mature forest of oak trees and other hardwoods had formerly sheltered neotropical migratory birds and many other wildlife species. Restoring the Ridge Trail with hardwood trees is ongoing and the song of warblers is returning.
Marsh Restoration: Each year, Christmas trees from households in New Orleans get recycled to support life in the marsh. Bundles of trees are airlifted as a National Guard training exercise, and placed in the marsh to reduce erosion.
Prescribed Fire: Prescribed fire mimics formerly naturally occurring disturbance by fire within refuge habitats. Burning at the refuge helps to maintain plant and wildlife diversity and abundance and is conducted in accordance with a fire management plan.
Invasive Species Management: Invasive species degrade, change or displace native habitats and compete with our native plants and wildlife. Monitoring and control ofusing best management practices is an integral part of refuge management. Non-native species we control include feral hogs, nutria, salvinia, water hyacinth and Chinese tallow.
Our Projects and Research
Bayou Sauvage is the second largestlocated in an urban area of the U.S., and is one of the last remaining marsh areas adjacent to the south shores of lakes Pontchartrain and Borgne. One of the key objectives of the refuge is to provide opportunities for fish and wildlife-dependent public uses and recreation in an urban setting. The refuge also helps protect east New Orleans from hurricane storm surge.
Urban Program: Being located within the city of New Orleans, the refuge offers urban dwellers an opportunity to connect with nature and experience wildlife and the habitats that support them close to home. The Urban Wildlife Refuge Program at Bayou Sauvage reaches beyond refuge boundaries and into communities to provide opportunities for New Orleanians and visitors to experience and enjoy these public lands and the wildlife that lives there. Our urban program engages the community in environmental education and service learning.
Restoration of the Ridge Project: This post-Hurricane Katrina project aims to restore a mixed hardwood forest which suffered extensive damage due to saltwater and wind. Since 2005, local schoolchildren and community volunteers have been planting trees and removingat this site. An interpretive boardwalk trail explores this area.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service maintains a law enforcement presence on National Wildlife Refuge lands for wildlife and public safety. Our refuge law enforcement officers protect fish, wildlife, plants and other natural, cultural and historic resources by fostering understanding and instilling in the visiting public an appreciation of refuge resources, laws, and regulations.