Conservation effort in northern Louisiana is something to quack about
Public-private partnership protects and enhances vital migratory lands at Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge
Morehouse Parish, Louisiana – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and The Conservation Fund announced today the completion of a multi-year project to add nearly 4,000 acres of mixed farmland and timberland to Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in northeastern Louisiana. This action secures the largest remaining inholding for the Refuge, enabling more effective management of the area for wildlife habitat and public recreation.
Located along the Ouachita River at the Louisiana-Arkansas border, the Upper Ouachita NWR provides a seasonal haven for tens of thousands of migratory ducks and geese, including mallards, pintails, wood ducks and snow geese, which visit the refuge every year for resting, foraging and breeding. The permanent conservation of this bottomland area as part of the Refuge will also offer new opportunities for hunting and bird-watching on designated sections.
“This additional land will benefit many wildlife species like wintering waterfowl, the endangered Louisiana black bear, and other migratory birds,” said Cynthia Dohner, the Service’s Southeast Regional Director. “Our partnership with The Conservation Fund is long and particularly beneficial to fish and wildlife conservation in the Lower Mississippi Delta. These lands will be protected and managed to provide quality habitat for these wildlife species.”
Thanks to the dedicated support of Senator Mary Landrieu, the United States Congress approved funding for the purchase of the property through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a federal land protection program that receives funds from the development of federally-owned offshore oil and gas resources. No taxpayer dollars are used to support the LWCF, which has been protecting forests, natural resources, state and local parks and recreation areas since 1965. In addition, the NWR received allocations from the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund, which is derived largely from the sale of migratory bird hunting licenses and Duck Stamps, to complete the acquisition.
“These additional acres are critical for the refuge’s success,” said Sen. Landrieu. “Protecting this land improves the overall quality of our local environment, provides a home for thousands of migratory birds, and expands the area available for outdoor recreation and sport that Louisianans love, such as hunting, hiking and bird watching.”
The addition to the Refuge was part of a 16,000-acre area that was converted to agriculture in the 1960s, along the Ouachita River known as Mollicy Farms. Over the past decade, the Service and its conservation partners have slowly assembled the patchwork of parcels necessary to protect and then restore the entire acreage to its natural landscape.
Through donations from its voluntary carbon offset program, Go Zero®, The Conservation Fund and its partners have begun to restore the property’s historical hardwood forest habitat by planting native oak, pecan and hickory trees. This gold level validated effort, under the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standards, is entering its second year of fundraising to secure the planting of more than 785,000 trees on approximately 2,600 acres. As the forest matures, it will trap carbon dioxide, slow floodwaters and restore key habitat for the American bald eagle and the federally threatened Louisiana black bear.
“Every tree that we plant at the Mollicy Farms unit of the Refuge plays an integral role in restoring the natural hydrology of the Mississippi River and its tributaries, which in this case is the Ouachita River,” said Ray Herndon, Louisiana state director for The Conservation Fund. “This is one of the largest floodplain restoration efforts in the nation, designed to improve habitat for migrating wildlife and slow floodwaters before they reach communities and businesses downstream. We’re proud of the mud on our boots and know that there is more work to be done to protect and reforest this special place.”
“The Conservation Fund and its Go Zero program are helping the National Wildlife Refuge System protect valuable habitats for the benefit of wildlife and the American people,” said Joseph McGowan, Upper Ouachita’s refuge manager.
The Conservation Fund’s Go Zero program works with companies and individuals to help reduce and then offset the carbon footprint of everyday activities, such as the CO2 emissions resulting from an in-town or cross-country move with U-Haul, a flight purchased from Travelocity, a package shipped from Gaiam or the electricity it takes to power a Dell notebook for three years. Customer donations help plant native trees in protected parks and wildlife refuges, like Upper Ouachita NWR, which will capture and store carbon over time, while also creating forest habitats that are critical to birds, fish, bears and other wildlife. To calculate your own carbon footprint and make a donation, visit www.conservationfund.org/gozero.
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The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who can make it happen, visit fws.gov. Connect with the Service on Facebook, follow our tweets, watch the YouTube Channel and download photos from Flickr.