Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge, Tallulah, Louisiana
5-year-old green ash and nuttal oak saplings are now clearly visible above the tall weeds and grass. Credit: USFWS
Tensas River NWR features prominently in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s reforestation efforts to help increase the benefits of terrestrial carbon sequestration . Since 1999, more than 4,000 acres of refuge land, once cleared for agriculture, has been planted with native species of bottomland hardwoods. The original forest on this acreage had been clear-cut many decades prior to the refuge’s establishment in 1980.
The refuge is located in the upper basin of the Tensas River in northeastern Louisiana. It consists, today, of 2,514 acres of open water and wetlands, 54,808 acres of bottomland hardwood forest, 4,000 acres of newly-planted woodlands, and 3,000 acres of cooperatively farmed crop lands.
Service partners, who have contributed towards these reforestation projects and the acquisition of additional land , include power utilities, Entergy Corporation and Dynegy Inc, Texaco, Future Forest and Trust for Public Land. Donations from contributors went into purchasing 1.25 million trees (approximately 302 trees per acre) and funding contract labor to plant the trees.
The trees species planted included: Nuttall oak, water oak, willow oak, overcup oak, cherrybark oak, sweet pecan, green ash, sweetgum, bald cypress, persimmon, red maple, bitter pecan, Shumard oak, red mulberry, and American sycamore.
For their first 3-5 years, the Service routinely monitors the young saplings. During this time they are susceptible to drought and damage from insect pests. As the trees begin to reach maturity they soon provide valuable habitat for the threatened Louisiana black bear, many species of neotropical migratory songbirds, white-tailed deer, and countless other woodland dwellers.
In just 20 years, barring fire, flood, or other disaster, these 4,000 acres of bottomland hardwood trees will have removed an estimated 3,500 short tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, thereby helping to reduce the potential for global warming. In addition to providing valuable wildlife habitat and overall bio-diversity enhancement, other benefits include reduced soil erosion and and contamination from animal waste, applied pesticides and other toxic chemicals.
For more information about Tensas River NWR, go to: http://www.fws.gov/tensasriver
Catahoula National Wildlife Refuge, Rhinehart, Louisiana
Catahoula NWR (http://www.fws.gov/catahoula) was established, October 28, 1958, as an inviolate sanctuary for waterfowl and for wildlife conservation. The refuge is located in east central Louisiana, 12 miles east of Jena. The 6,671-acre Headquarters Unit is located along nine miles of the northeast shore of Catahoula Lake, a 26,000-acre natural wetland, renowned for its large concentrations of migratory waterfowl. It was designated June 18, 1981 as a wetland of international importance by the Ramsar Convention.
This Convention on Wetlands, signed in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971, is an intergovernmental treaty which provides the framework for national action and international cooperation regarding the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. There are presently 140 Contracting Parties to the Convention, with 1374 wetland sites, totaling 121.4 million hectares, designated for inclusion in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance. Click here for more on the Ramsar Convention (http://www.ramsar.org)
In the year 2000, as part of the first carbon sequestration project on Catahoula NWR, 190 acres were reforested on the refuge’s Willow Lake Unit, by Environmental Synergy, Inc. (ESI) (http://www.environmental-synergy.com/main.html) . Two years later, ESI planted another 43 acres on the Unit, bringing the total to 81,950 seedlings planted on 233 acres. This land had been originally cleared for farming in the 1970s. The service acquired these marginal agricultural lands in 1996.
In the spring of 2001, The Conservation Fund (TCF) (http:conservationfund.org/) purchased the 18,372-acre, Bushley Bayou Unit – land that had also been cleared for agriculture during the 1960s and 1970s. The Fund then turned 8,115 acres over to the Service for the Catahoula refuge. The remaining 10,257 acres it sold to American Electric Power (AEP) ( http://www.aep.com/environmental/performance/emissionsassessment/default.htm )for use in a terrestrial carbon sequestration project. AEP entered into a management agreement with the Service to manage this land as part of the refuge. This Unit is located eight miles west of Jonesville and its acquisition was made possible through a partnership agreement between the Service, The Conservation Fund, and American Electric Power.
AEP reforestation one year old, willow oak seedling, photo 11/4/03, planted February 2003. Credit: USFWS
The partnership was formed to bring together private industry, a conservation organization, and the federal government for the purpose of habitat protection and restoration. American Electric Power was willing to acquire cleared, unproductive agricultural fields and lands and reforest them for future potential carbon sequestration credits. The Conservation Fund and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were interested in restoring this degraded habitat to provide for wintering waterfowl, migratory birds, and the restoration and preservation of bottomland hardwood forest.
The reforestation of 9,784 acres of the Bushley Bayou Unit was completed in two phases. Phase one began in 2001, with 2,492 acres being planted with 748,750 seedlings. During phase two, AEP planted 5,533 acres on its own land, adjoining the refuge and on 1,759 acres of Service land – for a total of 7,292 acres planted with 2,229,390 seedlings. In all, the total area was is planted with 2,978,140 seedlings.
The trees planted in connection with these reforestation projects on both the Willow Lake and Bushley Bayou units were all bottomland hardwoods, that are native to the area and selected to match the soil types and flood tolerance. Most of the trees were hand planted by crews of 10 to 20 men, but some 1,200 acres on the Bushley Bayou Unit were machine planted.>
Actual species planted were: willow oak, green ash, baldcypress, Nuttall oak, overcup oak, persimmon, sweet pecan, water oak, Shumard oak, bitter pecan, American elm, swamp chestnut oak, water tupelo, sycamore, hackberry, sweetgum, and red maple. In all, seventeen species of bottomland hardwoods were planted.
In 20 years from now, these 10,000 acres of forest land will have removed approximately 1.142 million tons of carbon from the atmosphere.
The species expected to benefit from the completed reforestation projects on the Catahoula refuge are waterfowl, neotropical migratory songbirds, and resident game species such as white-tailed deer, fox squirrels, and countless other forest dwellers.