The Louisiana coastal marshes occupy over four million acres in a continuous band which extends from the Mississippi state line on the east to the Texas state line on the west. The western portion of the area is known as the Chenier Plain, which is bordered on the north by the Pleistocene Prairie formation, also known as the ricebelt in southwestern Louisiana. Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is located in the Cameron and Evangeline Parishes and straddles the border of the Pleistocene Prairie and the Chenier Plain marshes. The refuge is bisected by the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and Bayou Lacassine and is bordered on the east by the Mermentau River and on the west by the Bell City Drainage Ditch. The southern border of the refuge is formed by Lake Misere, Bayou Misere, Mud Lake, and Grand Lake.
The vegetative types occuring on the refuge are primarily water tolerant grasses, sedges, and shrubs. The types vary according to frequency, depth, and length of time water covers the area. Vegetation in the undeveloped marshes is dominated by bulltongue. Vegetation in Lacassine Pool, a 16,000 acre freshwater impoundment, consists primarily of bulltongue, maidencane, watershield, waterlily, spikerush, and southern bullrush. Trees include black willow, Chinese tallow, and cypress which are generally scattered through the refuge. Natural marsh habitat predominates, with minimal amounts of open water, forest, grassland, shrubland, and cropland.
Lacassine NWR is managed extensively for waterfowl and other Louisiana coastal wetland species. The refuge manipulates water levels to manage for naturally occuring marsh and moist soil plants and plants crops to provide food for wintering waterfowl that migrate down the Mississippi and Central flyways. Prescribed burning is utilized to invigorate native coastal prairie grass and forb growth and also to reduce the fuel load and organic accumulation in the marshes.
The refuge is also in the process of restoring coastal prairie habitat. Coastal
prairie is a type of tallgrass prairie, similar to the tallgrass prairie
of the midwest U.S. This ecosystem once extended from Corpus
Christi, TX to its eastern limit at the margin of pine savanna along
a north south line running from Opelousas to Lafayette, LA. In
pre-settlement times, the coastal prairie was estimated to have encompassed
as much as nine million acres of land. Today, substantially less
than one percent of the coastal prairie remains in a relatively undisturbed
condition. The remaining 99.9 percent has been nearly eliminated
by agriculture. Refuge staff have conducted several small prairie
restorations on the refuge in Cameron Parish and are in the process
of restoring a 350 acre refuge tract in Evangeline Parish.
Visit the Cajun Prairie Restoration Society web page to find out more about prairie and restoration efforts.