Conservation Partnership Makes Strides Toward Permanent Protection of Important Bird Area in Southeast Louisiana


Singing Prothonotary Warbler

(Credit: Bill Stripling) Prothonotary Warbler

Livingston Parish, La.–(ENEWSPF)–September 13, 2011.  The Land Trust for Southeast Louisiana (LTSL), The Conservation Fundand the National Audubon Society announced the permanent protection of 675 acres of diverse wetland habitat near the town of Maurepas, La. This acquisition will enhance an ongoing, multi-partner effort to expand and preserve key ecosystems within the West Pontchartrain-Maurepas Swamp Important Bird Area (IBA) – an area that provides a critical link for millions of migratory birds between North American nesting grounds and wintering areas in Latin America.

Comprised of open coastal swamp and forested wetland areas of cypress and tupelo trees, the protected land is home to numerous migratory waterfowl, Neotropical and waterbird species including the little blue heron, American white pelican, black tern, rusty blackbird, and dense breeding populations of prothonotary warbler, northern parula and yellow-throated warbler.  With the permanent stewardship of these wetlands just north of the Maurepas Swamp Wildlife Management Area, the public will gain new places to bird-watch and explore, enhanced water quality, and, with other planned efforts, protection from floods and storm surges.

The acquired acres will be managed as part of the LTSL’s permanently protected conservation holdings and will fit directly into a larger conservation landscape of well over 100,000 acres.  The partnership between the LTSL, Audubon and the Fund continues to provide outstanding results for habitat protection and restoration in the region.  On approximately 25 acres of this particular project, Audubon will enhance the area’s resiliency and improve habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife by removing invasive plants and planting native tree and shrub species.

“The West Pontchartrain-Maurepas Swamp IBA Habitat Conservation Effort is perfect example of what happens when conservation organizations partner together for the common good,” noted Dr. Jay Addison, President of the Land Trust for Southeast Louisiana.  “LTSL is grateful to the Fund’s Ray Herndon and Audubon’s Melanie Driscoll for their efforts in obtaining this remarkable treasure.  The people of Louisiana can be assured that the LTSL takes great pride and responsibility in holding this land in conservation.”

“The protection of this property preserves critical habitat for declining wetland birds and helps support the integrity of a large and important ecosystem,” said Melanie Driscoll, Audubon’s director of bird conservation for the Gulf Coast and Mississippi Flyway. “The Land Trust for Southeast Louisiana and The Conservation Fund have been wonderful partners through this process, and we deeply appreciate their leadership and dedication. We look forward to continued and expanding partnerships in the future.”

“This acquisition ensures that these wetlands and waterways will remain in an undisturbed state so that public enjoyment of the natural resources within this quintessential South Louisiana landscape will continue on in perpetuity,” said Ray Herndon, Louisiana state director for The Conservation Fund. “This outcome is a true testament to the determination and focus on the part of the entire partnership. With the tremendous leadership by President Mike Grimmer, the protection and restoration of coastal wetlands in Livingston Parish have become a top priority.  Through this project, and others to follow, President Grimmer has set a clear strategy to ensure the protection of these natural resources.  In addition, this project would not have been possible without the full cooperation of the three landowners.”

Thanks to the determined efforts of Audubon, funding for this acquisition was made available through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), a federal grant program that provides matching grants for conservation projects benefiting all habitats, birds and wildlife associated with wetlands ecosystems.  Over the past 20 years, NAWCA matching funds have protected, restored and enhanced approximately 26.5 million acres of wetland habitat across North America.  In addition, the Maurepas and Pontchartrain Basin has benefited from at least four individual NAWCA grants over the history of the program.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s North American Wetlands Conservation Act Program is pleased to support projects such as the West Pontchartrain-Maurepas Swamp IBA Habitat Conservation Effort that will provide such tremendous benefits for waterfowl and other wetland-dependent wildlife in coastal Louisiana,” said USFWS’s Michael Johnson.  “This partnership will ensure that the acres acquired and enhanced by this project will continue to support migratory waterfowl, other waterbirds, and Neotropical migrants.”

“Building on Livingston Parish’s action earlier this year to preserve significant acreage along Lake Maurepas, this conservation effort by the Land Trust for Southeast Louisiana will ensure that the public is further protected from storm surge, as well as establish permanent benefits to water quality,” said Livingston Parish President Mike Grimmer. “Thanks to the efforts of many, this outcome will serve the public well for generations to come.”

This project builds on The Conservation Fund’s long-term commitment to protect and restore coastal wetlands across Louisiana.  Since 1990, the Fund and its partners have protected more than 130,000 acres of coastal wetland and associated upland habitats, including the establishment of the Maurepas Swamp Wildlife Management Area.  The Fund is currently working to protect an additional 32,000 acres adjacent to this parcel, which will connect approximately 140,000 acres of protected lands within the Lake Maurepas and Lake Pontchartrain basins.