All of Ducks Unlimited's wetland conservation projects provide habitat for waterfowl and direct benefits for those who pursue them, but all people reap rewards from them. Wetlands provide multiple ecological benefits, including flood water absorption, groundwater recharge, and overall water quality improvement. Forested wetlands along rivers and streams are particularly important for these functions as well as for providing waterfowl and other wildlife habitat.
The Pump Trail Unit at Russell Sage WMA is a green tree reservoir (GTR) that provides more than 1,000 acres of flooded bottomland hardwood habitat in Ouachita Parish, Louisiana. Through a network of levees and water control structures, managers mimic natural flood regimes to optimize these forested habitats for wintering waterfowl. However, because the GTR was constructed in the late 1960's, normal wear and degradation of infrastructure made critical repairs necessary to continue management of this unit.
Using North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) and partner funds, Ducks Unlimited worked to install new water control structures and repair and upgrade levees. Located along Bayou Lafourche, the unit is subject to frequent flood events. As such, one of the critical project features is a concrete spillway that allows floodwaters to pass over the levee without damaging the levee system. These improvements, completed in 2010, ensure that Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries staff have the appropriate tools needed to maintain healthy bottomland hardwood habitat and continue providing duck hunting opportunities.
In addition to the obvious benefits to waterfowl and waterfowl hunters, wetland enhancement projects like this one have tremendous benefits for everyone. By slowing down the water draining from the GTR into Bayou Lafourche, the water control structures allow nutrient cycling completion in the forested wetland. This means that nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous are absorbed by the forest, improving water quality and preventing nutrient loading downstream. Additionally, sediment has time to settle in the forested wetlands. Though clear, the water from the GTR appears dark because of the tannins absorbed from the forest plants.
DU applied for an additional NAWCA grant in March 2012 to support further enhancements to the Russell Sage WMA.