MONROE, La., Oct. 31, 2005 - Ducks Unlimited and partners recently enhanced more than 4,000 acres of wetland habitat on Catahoula Lake in central Louisiana, doubling their yearly accomplishments of the past.
“This year, we set back invading woody vegetation, which smothers out duck food on the lake, by more than 4,000 acres using modern plant science technology,” said Hugh Bateman, special projects coordinator for DU in Louisiana. “In years past, we’ve only been able to accomplish about 2,000 acres of treatment.”
During the summer, when lake levels were low, employees from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) used environmentally safe herbicides donated by DU through its CropLife America partnership to control hundreds of mature black willow trees invading the lakebed. DU staff also assisted the LDWF in the application of several herbicides sprayed on individual pest plants of various sizes.
“For years, we have worked with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and local conservation groups like the Catahoula Lake Conservation Club to control the expansion of woody vegetation on Catahoula Lake,” Bateman said. “This year, the total acres impacted have far surpassed anything we’ve previously accomplished. DU is extremely proud of our long years of cooperation with these groups on behalf of waterfowl conservation and waterfowl hunters.”
The survival of woody plants treated will be monitored to determine which products are most effective. DU and LDWF also teamed up with Justiss Oil Co. to bush-hog more than 4,000 acres of expanding swamp privet and water elm growth over the lakebed. Justiss Oil has been a supporter of DU for many years and offered equipment, fuel and drivers at no cost for this project.
Catahoula Lake spans some 30,000 acres in the Louisiana parishes of LaSalle and Rapides. The lake is the most important inland wetland for waterfowl and shorebirds in Louisiana, providing habitat for as many as 500,000 waterfowl and 20 species of shorebirds. Catahoula Lake is recognized by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands as a wetland of international importance, and is nationally known as critical habitat for pintails and canvasbacks.
“It’s hard to overstate the importance of Catahoula Lake as a resource to waterfowl and a great variety of shorebirds in Louisiana,” said Bateman. “Catahoula Lake is entrusted to public ownership and is easily the most important public duck hunting area outside the coast. It will always be there for migratory birds if we take care of it. That fits right into DU’s mission, and we’re proud to be working there. But working is the key word. Each year, we have to apply proper management strategies that benefit waterfowl foods.”
Woody plants such as the black willow, water elm and swamp privet pose an annual threat by further invading the open lake, choking out the indigenous moist soil vegetation such as sedge, millet and sprangletop, which wintering waterfowl rely on as key sources of food.
“Now that fall migration is underway, ducks, coots and geese are arriving on Catahoula Lake daily,” Bateman said. “Biologists who monitor the lake on a regular basis are reporting thousands of birds, particularly pintails and teal on the lake. As the lake begins to flood the vast moist-soil areas in November, it will become a spectacular showcase for waterfowl sights and sounds.”
Bateman says two factors will make Catahoula Lake more critical than ever for waterfowl migrating into Louisiana this year: drought and hurricanes.
“In spite of liberal rains spawned by the two major hurricanes, the entire northern three fourths of Louisiana is extremely dry,” said Bateman. “But, about 3,000 to 4,000 acres of Catahoula Lake’s core marsh stays wet because of the permanent flows coming in from Little River and the small creeks on the north side of the lake. That part of the lake is still producing natural plant foods that attract ducks. So, it’s extremely important to tired, hungry waterfowl migrating during early fall drought events.”
“Also, in a year like this, when many coastal habitats have been storm damaged, Catahoula Lake will be right in the crosshairs of waterfowl in terms of habitat destinations. On a scale of one to 10, it’s probably a 12 and a half in terms of importance to waterfowl this year.”
Ducks Unlimited and partners were able to impact more acres this year, thanks in part to donations from CropLife America. CropLife America and Ducks Unlimited, Inc. have partnered in a novel wildlife conservation-technology initiative. The goal of this five-year initiative is to expand the use of plant science technology in restoring and managing habitat for the benefit of North American waterfowl and other wildlife. By contributing herbicides, fungicides and technical assistance, the member companies of CropLife America are working with Ducks Unlimited to manage invasive weeds and enhance natural habitat in key waterfowl landscapes across the United States.
With more than a million supporters, Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest wetlands and waterfowl conservation organization. The United States alone has lost more than half of its original wetlands – nature’s most productive ecosystems – and continues to lose more than 100,000 wetland acres each year.