Located along the Ouachita River at the Louisiana-Arkansas border, the Upper Ouachita NWR provides a seasonal haven for tens of thousands of migratory ducks and geese, including mallards, pintails, wood ducks and snow geese, which visit the refuge every year for resting, foraging and breeding.
“This property lies adjacent to 13,000 acres of refuge lands, and its preservation not only protects habitat for wildlife, it also provides additional areas for hunting and bird-watching, enhances air and water quality and reduces flooding and erosion,” said Ray Herndon, Louisiana state director for The Conservation Fund. “Protecting this property has been a priority for the Refuge for many years, and we are proud to help the Upper Ouachita NWR finally make it a reality.”
Through donations from its voluntary carbon offset program, Go Zero®, The Conservation Fund and its partners plan to restore approximately 2,600 acres here with more than 785,000 native oak, pecan and hickory trees.
As the forest matures, it will trap carbon dioxide and restore key habitat for the American bald eagle and the federally threatened Louisiana black bear. Tree plantings will begin as early as January 2011.
“We’re thrilled to protect and restore this refuge for everyone to enjoy,” said George Chandler, project leader for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s North Louisiana Refuges Complex. “Across our efforts, The Conservation Fund has been a key partner in making this happen. Even as we celebrate today’s success, we’re rolling up our sleeves to do more together, for all of us and for generations to come.”
W. Elton Kennedy, seller of the property said: “I’ve known and worked with this farm for a large portion of my life. It holds a special place in my heart and I am grateful to all who have helped to make this outcome a reality. This transfer will ensure the permanent protection of this land, to provide continued habitat for ducks, and allow the Refuge to manage its lands more effectively. As I have invested quite a bit of time on this land, the sale to The Conservation Fund gives me great peace of mind.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will acquire the land from The Conservation Fund as it receives funding for inclusion of the Mollicy Unit of the Refuge. Senator Mary Landrieu and Representative Rodney Alexander have championed this project in Congress by seeking federal funding through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), including $500,000 in the Fiscal Year 2010 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. In addition, the NWR received an allocation from the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund of $1,280,000 for Fiscal Year 2010.
“It has been a priority to expand the Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge and these additional acres will play an essential role in the refuge’s prosperity,” said Sen. Landrieu. “Protecting these lands will enhance the overall quality of our local environment, act as a home to the thousands of migratory birds, and allow for added space for the outdoor recreation and sport that Louisianans love, such as hunting, hiking and bird watching.”
The Conservation Fund’s Go Zero program works with companies and individuals to help reduce and then offset the carbon footprint of everyday activities.