The Nature Conservancy of Louisiana announced its recent acquisition of 247 acres along Bayou Bartholomew in Morehouse Parish, Louisiana (Figure 1). The Conservancy plans to transfer the property to the State of Louisiana within the next 12 months, increasing the size of adjacent Chemin-A-Haut State Park by nearly 50 percent.
Chemin-A-Haut State Park, which is located 8 miles north of Bastrop, and the newly acquired DeBlieux Tract are geographically located along the western boundary of the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley. The area is considered one of the priority freshwater sites in the ecoregion and nationally. The DeBlieux tract consists of pasture, bottomland hardwood forest, cypress swamp and aquatic habitats along Bayou Bartholomew. Bayou Bartholomew is habitat for globally rare species such as the Western Fanshell, Pink Mucket and Pyramid Pigtoe mussels and the Blue Shiner. Over 115 fish species have been found in Bayou Bartholomew, which places it behind only the Green River in Kentucky and the Cahaba River in Alabama in terms of fish species richness in North American freshwater streams.
Climate change – caused by the emission and build-up of heat trapping gases in the atmosphere – presents an enormous challenge to the global community. The Nature Conservancy is working to advocate for policies to reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses, to help natural and human communities adapt to unavoidable changes exacerbated by climate change and to promote forest conservation and restoration as a credible, practical way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Forests capture and sequester carbon dioxide in living trees and also through increased carbon stored in soils. Protection of threatened forests and replanting previously forested regions are considered viable options to limit or reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide. The Conservancy and Office of State Parks will immediately develop a site restoration plan that will include planting the pastureland with native hardwoods that are estimated to sequester approximately 40,000 tons of carbon dioxide when fully mature. By reforesting unprofitable or marginally productive agricultural properties in proximity to permanently protected conservation areas, the Conservancy seeks to protect land and restore critical wildlife habitat while simultaneously contributing to efforts focused on climate change. The Conservancy will be responsible for forest restoration activities on the new property and will retain the rights to future carbon emission reduction credits that the project might generate. To partially offset acquisition and restoration costs, The Nature Conservancy will market the retained carbon dioxide reduction credits to corporations that have an interest in offsetting their carbon emissions.
This project would not have been possible had it not been for the cooperation of New Century Exploration, Inc., which holds the mineral lease on the property. New Century has agreed to restrict any surface activities to a limited area so that the natural and aesthetic values of the property are protected. New Century conducts its operations in accordance with the Native American proverb that says: “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” New Century is very happy that it was able to support the Nature Conservancy and pledges to continue that support in the future. Dr. Keith Ouchley, State Director of the Louisiana office of The Nature Conservancy stated “This project exemplifies the novel approaches to conservation that must be employed in this era of limited state and federal budgets. If we are to be truly successful in conserving our natural heritage, we need to be able to balance the needs of property owners with natural resource restoration priorities—the partnership with New Century is one such example.”
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.