Reforested Land Added to Louisiana NWR

The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national non-profit land conservation organization with conservation initiatives throughout Louisiana and the Gulf Coast announces its conveyance of 1,974 acres in northeastern Louisiana to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). The land will be added to the Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge, located 7 miles west of Tallulah, Louisiana.

More than 1,420 acres were reforested with 433,000 native trees as part of The Trust for Public Land’s on-going carbon sequestration program.

Carbon sequestration is the term describing processes that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere-a variety of means of naturally capturing and storing carbon (while releasing oxygen). It is one of the most promising ways for reducing the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere; and in this case, it is done by planting trees in previously deforested areas within the refuge boundaries.

“One of the goals of the program” explains Don Morrow, Director of Projects for TPL, “is to restore bottomland hardwoods. The other obviously is to help mitigate the effects of global warming. When fully-grown, the newly planted trees will sequester 639,000 tons of carbon dioxide. That’s the equivalent of the carbon footprint of 75,000 homes for one year or of taking 125,000 cars off the road.”

Funding for the project came from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), secured by U.S. Senators Mary Landrieu and David Vitter and U.S. Congressman Rodney Alexander, supplemented by $1,362,000 in carbon funding from Detroit Edison, Conoco-Phillips and the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation. The carbon funding helped to cover land acquisition costs, paid for tree planting and provided a $71,000 management endowment to the USFWS.

“This expansion of the Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge is a prime example of the tremendous benefits that come from the public and private sectors working together to protect our vital wildlife habitats,” says U. S. Senator Landrieu. “I applaud all of the partners that have come together to plant critical trees, create additional wildlife habitat and preserve a valuable part of our nation.”

U. S. Senator Vitter agrees. “The Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge is a treasure in northeast Louisiana. “As one of the largest continuous blocks of bottomland hardwoods in the nation, it provides Louisianans a place for recreational activities like fishing, biking and hunting. The efforts to conserve and preserve this land help ensure the refuge is around for decades to come.”

“This project will advance the Tensas River National Wildlife’s efforts to maintain the natural state of the land in this area, which not only preserves the beauty and history of the region but also benefits the environment,” adds Congressman Alexander.

TPL purchased 11,000 acres from Chicago Mill and Lumber Company over a three year period from 2004 to 2006 and has transferred portions of the land to USFWS in phases as funding became available.

“We’ve been working with The Trust for Public Land for over three years now,” says Ken Clough of the USFWS’s Realty Division. “The Refuge currently exists as two separate refuge units and TPL has stepped in to save the area between these two units. Acquisition and reforestation of this property will restore the native bottomland hardwood forest and reconnect the separate forested tracts. This will provide significant biological benefits by providing a wildlife corridor and increasing the size and continuity of refuge lands. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.”

Kelly Purkey, Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge Manager, agrees. “When it comes to saving and restoring at-risk land, especially in this area, government can’t do it alone. It takes the help of like-minded stakeholders like The Trust for Public Land and our other ‘carbon partners’ who put the good of the general public above their own interests to make it happen”

To date, TPL has conveyed more than 6,770 acres to the Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge; reforested 4,830 acres with 1,444,600 trees; donated in excess of $1,106,000 in planting costs and $240,500 in management endowments. TPL has also provided $2,080,000 in land acquisition support and 2,173,500 tons of CO2 have been sequestered.

The 70,000-acre Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge is one part of a network of refuges devoted to preserving and restoring increasingly scarce habitat for native wildlife and migratory birds. Established in 1980, the refuge is located in the Tensas River basin in northeastern Louisiana and is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The bottomland forest contains a great variety of trees, shrubs, vines and other plants- habitat that provides food and shelter for more than 400 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish including bobcat, wild turkey and the remnant population of the Louisiana black bear. In 1902, Teddy Roosevelt hunted bear north of the refuge in Mississippi and the “Teddy Bear” was introduced as a result of an incident during the hunt.

The Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge is one the largest publicly owned tract of bottomland hardwoods remaining in the Mississippi delta. The last citing of the ivory-billed woodpecker, which is thought to be extinct by most scientists, occurred in the 1940’s on land adjacent to the refuge.

About TPL: The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national private nonprofit conservation organization founded in 1972, protects land for people to enjoy as parks, greenways, community gardens, urban playgrounds, and wilderness. Since its inception in 1972, TPL has completed more than 3,000 projects in 43 states, protecting over 2 million acres of land with a fair market value of more than $4 billion.