In June, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) announced 6 grants totaling $2 million in support of efforts to restore, enhance and protect more than 10,000 acres of forest and wetland habitats along the Mississippi Alluvial Valley. The grants will generate $2.3 million in matching contributions for a total conservation impact of nearly $4.3 million across Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee.

"NFWF's investments are a critical catalyst in restoring and managing the vast forested wetlands of the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley," said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF in the release announcing the grants. "The grants will enhance habitat for an array of fish and wildlife species, improve the river system's health through restored hydrological function, and benefit communities by providing cleaner water and supporting local economies."

The grants were awarded through the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley Restoration Fund (LMAV Fund), a partnership between NFWF and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the U.S. Forest Service, with private funding from International Paper's Forestland Stewards Partnership, the Walton Family Foundation and the American Forest Foundation's Southern Woods for At-Risk Wildlife Initiative.

"Environmental solutions that generate economic benefits are the ones that stand the test of time," said Moira McDonald, director of the Mississippi River initiative at the Walton Family Foundation. "These restoration projects benefit water quality, wildlife and forest health while also providing bottom line or economic benefits for landowners."

Ducks Unlimited is the grantee on two of these important projects. The Arkansas Wetland Restoration and Water Quality Improvement Initiative project was awarded $499,444, matched by $300,000, to improve 1,600 acres of bottomland hardwood forest habitat through invasive species removal and hydrological restoration on public and private properties enrolled in the NRCS Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) in Arkansas. The projects will benefit waterfowl and forest-dependent bird species. DU will engage private landowners through outreach and technical assistance, with the goal to enroll at least 30 landowners in stewardship programs to improve bottomland hardwood forests, wetland habitats and water quality.

The Stewardship of Privately-Owned Bottomland Hardwood Forests in the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley (AR, KY, LA, MO, MS, TN) project was awarded $153,180, matched by $306,360, to increase stewardship of privately-owned bottomland hardwood forests in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley through outreach, technical assistance and developing conservation plans to guide management of existing forests and improve habitat for waterfowl, forest-interior birds and other forest-dependent wildlife. The project will reach 150 landowners with existing conservation easements, including properties enrolled in the NRCS WRP, with the goal for at least half of these landowners to implement conservation activities that will enhance 2,000 acres of forested wetlands and restore hydrologic conditions on 450 acres to improve water quality.

The LMAV Fund was established by NFWF in 2017 to restore, enhance and conserve bottomland hardwood forest and wetland habitats. The fund's work benefits local communities by improving forest health, enhancing wildlife habitat, and increasing water quality within the Mississippi Alluvial Valley.