HOUMA, La., December 14, 2005 – Ducks Unlimited joined a coalition of state, local, and federal partners, and private supporters today at the Pointe-aux-Chenes Wildlife Management Area in Terrebonne Parish to dedicate the first restored wetland since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the region.
“We’re here today to celebrate a wetland brought back to life by concerned citizens and powerful partnerships,” said DU President, Jim Hulbert. “This is what it’s all about – putting habitat back where it belongs, not just because waterfowl and wildlife need it, but because people need wetlands too, for water, flood control, hurricane protection, recreation and so many other reasons. Wetlands have endless value to all of us, and it’s good to be part of restoring these valuable habitats.”
The Ensminger-Songe Wetlands Unit, a 4,736-acre marsh on the Pointe-aux-Chenes Wildlife Management Area (WMA), was dedicated in honor of Allan Ensminger and Lloyd Songe, Sr., two former Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) employees who played key roles in the acquisition and development of this popular coastal WMA.
“Coastal restoration projects of this nature are steps in the right direction as our cooperative efforts start to rebuild the landscape of coastal Louisiana,” said Dwight Landreneau, LDWF Secretary. “Protecting our natural resources in this manner is vital to our economy and our way of life.”
The habitat conservation project on Pointe-aux-Chenes WMA restored water flow to 4,736 acres of degraded marsh through installation of four hydrologic structures and construction of one exterior levee. Erosion, salt-water intrusion and increased turbidity have degraded the once vast fresh, intermediate, and brackish marshes of southeast Louisiana. These problems were exacerbated by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
“Before hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit, we were actually 80 to 85 percent completed with our restoration work on Pointe-aux-Chenes in the fall of 2005,” said Ken Babcock, Director of DU’s Southern Regional Office. “When the hurricanes hit, the project was damaged significantly enough that we had to go back in and re-restore much of what we’d already done.”
Ducks Unlimited received $923,000 in funding through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) to offset costs associated with levee refurbishment and installation of water control structures. In addition, the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources provided $600,000 to complement the NAWCA funds for the work.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries will manage the area to maintain quality coastal wetland habitat for wintering waterfowl, while providing additional hunting opportunities. The restored marsh will increase the abundance and quality of submerged aquatic vegetation. Over time, emergent vegetation will spread across the project area, and open water areas will be replaced by highly productive, shallow ponds that provide excellent habitat for waterfowl.
The Pointe-aux-Chenes dedication signals the beginning of a massive marsh restoration effort across South Louisiana in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
DU recently committed $15 million toward the Louisiana Coastal Initiative to help restore Louisiana’s coastal marshes. DU’s Executive Vice President, Don Young says the new initiative will continue DU’s long-standing work in Louisiana and restore and enhance an additional 52,000 acres by 2008.
“We’ll leverage that money with other sources and increase those funds as much as possible by working with our partners and the state of Louisiana to restore America’s Wetland,” said Young.
To date, Ducks Unlimited has conserved, restored or enhanced almost 55,000 acres of Louisiana coastal marsh and is presently working on six North American Wetland Conservation Act grants with its partners that will protect, restore or enhance more than 155,000 acres when completed.
“Just months after the hurricanes hit, it’s good to be a part of this celebration, and to see tangible results of our conservation efforts in the form of restored wetlands for wildlife, fisheries and people,” said Young.
The partners associated with the Pointe-aux-Chenes WMA restoration project include: Ducks Unlimited, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, North American Wetlands Conservation Council, Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, Terrebonne Parish Consolidated Government, USDA – Natural Resources Conservation Service, Burlington Resources, Apache Louisiana Minerals Inc., Outback Steakhouse – Houma, Safari Club (Louisiana and Bayou Chapter), Dale Earnhardt Foundation, Ron and Jackie Bartels, S. Gordon Reese, and Fred Settoon.
With more than a million supporters, Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest and most effective wetland and waterfowl conservation organization. The United States alone has lost more than half of its original wetlands - nature’s most productive ecosystem - and continues to lose more than 100,000 wetland acres each year.
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