Cooperatove Conservation Project

Cooperative Conservation in Louisiana

Location: South-Central/South-West Region: Louisiana

Project Summary: Partnership seeks to restore thousands of acres of black bear, waterfowl and songbird habitat throughout Louisiana’s “hardwood rain forest”.
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A curious, young Louisiana black bear climbs a tree in the bottomland hardwood forests of the Mississippi River Valley.
Resource Challenge
During the 1960s, 70s and 80s, thousands of acres of lower Mississippi River Valley bottomland hardwoods were converted to other uses. Hundreds of square miles of biologically important forests were converted to row-crop agriculture. Migratory waterfowl and neotropical songbirds suffered tremendously because of the habitat loss. The black bear was especially hard hit because of ecological fragmentation and lack of genetic interchange among individual black
bear populations.

Over time, the converted woodlands proved unsuitable for row-crop agriculture. Flooding and wet conditions prevailed, causing poor crops and/or failed harvests. As a result of increasing crop failures, bankruptcies, and associated problems, rural communities faced financial despair. Land that was formerly so productive from a natural, ecological standpoint was now unproductive for both people and wildlife.
Examples of Key Partners
Ducks Unlimited, Black Bear Conservation Committee, USDI Fish and Wildlife Service, Nature Conservancy, Louisiana Soil and Water Conservation Districts, U.S. Geological Survey National Wetlands Research Center, National Wild Turkey Federation, USDA Farm Service Agency, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and many other local, state and federal agencies, committees, societies, refuges and land trusts.
Results and Accomplishments
Passage of a new Farm Bill in 1992 created a conservation opportunity in rural Louisiana. Farmers began enrolling in the
Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), a voluntary program that offers payments to landowners who restore wetlands that were previously drained and converted to agricultural uses. The WRP has become a catalyst for many efforts and initiatives already underway, adding to their capacity to restore the critical wetlands and woodlands of the
Mississippi Delta.

The Black Bear Corridor Special Project, an initiative designed to create a contiguous wooded and wetland corridor between two existing black bear populations in Louisiana, is one of many projects benefi ting from the WRP. The Black Bear Corridor Special Project is actively targeting easement acquisition and restoration on 56,250 acres in the State. Future goals include a wooded/wetland corridor from northeast Louisiana to the Gulf of Mexico. The project will also provide uninterrupted habitat for neotropical songbirds and waterfowl during spring and fall migrations between South America and Canada.

To date, the lower Mississippi River Valley WRP of Louisiana has enrolled more than 213,000 acres in the program and restored 145,000 acres.

Project re-established specialized habitat corridors for the Louisiana Black Bear, waterfowl, and neotropical songbirds.

Project Contact
Donald W. Gohmert
State Conservationist


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