Spreading out from the Mississippi River, the Lower Mississippi River Valley comprises thousands of acres of floodplain forests that were once home to the famed Ivory-billed Woodpecker, Florida Panther and Red Wolf.
Once the largest contiguous tract of floodplain forest in North America, only 26 percent of the Lower Mississippi River Valley’s historic extent remains, much of it as isolated fragments.
A small tract of land in the heart of the Lower Mississippi River Valley, made famous from Ivory-billed studies in the 1930s, is a key to connecting existing forest fragments.
Helping The Climate and Wildlife
This tract located in Louisiana’s Tensas (pronounced Tensaw) River Basin, was the first project in The Nature Conservancy's voluntary carbon offset program. The tract, which formerly stood as unproductive farmland, was acquired and planted with a variety of native tree species by The Nature Conservancy. The land was then sold to a private individual; as part of the sale a permanent conservation easement was placed on the land and all carbon rights were reserved by The Nature Conservancy. The project design received validation by an independent third-party to the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) in June 2011.
Revenue from voluntary carbon offset contributions supported the investment necessary to buy the land for the project, to plant trees, to monitor the carbon benefits and to manage the project.
The Tensas River Basin Project is part of a system of contiguous tracts that together comprise 3,600 acres that are under conservation management. This block of forest and restored agricultural lands are linked to nearly 100,000 acres of public land by the Tensas River and together provide critical habitat for many species, including black bear. We are building on the success of the Tensas River Basin Project by expanding reforestation efforts to tracts in other basins of the Lower Mississippi Valley (e.g. Bayou Bartholomew, Boeuf River).
“The Tensas River Basin Project fills a gap and consolidates this larger conservation area. It represents a critical piece in the conservation puzzle,” said Ronnie Ulmer, the Northeast Louisiana Program Director for The Nature Conservancy.
According to Conservancy climate change experts, the trees planted on 406.3 acres of the tract are predicted to capture and store 112,390 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) over the course of 70 years. This is a gross estimate, which does not take into account leakage and impermanence deductions described below.
To comply with requirements of the Verified Carbon Standard, which require us to take into account the possibility of carbon losses due to natural hazards or human-caused events beyond our control (“impermanence”), a portion of the future verified offsets will be set aside in an insurance “buffer” maintained by the Verified Carbon Standard. In addition, to reflect the possibility of our project resulting in emissions elsewhere due to shifting of agricultural production (“leakage”), a deduction from gross sequestration will be applied prior to verification, representing leakage, in accordance with the VCS validated project design. In addition, the Conservancy plans to retire an additional portion of the offsets upon verification, to maintain conservativeness in our carbon estimates. A quantity of the remaining verified offsets will be retired in an amount that is equivalent to the value of donations received by customers of the Voluntary Online Offset Program.
Given the generous financial support of this project provided by Delta Air Lines, Delta Air Lines customers and other Conservancy supporters, through the Voluntary Online Carbon Offset Program, the Tensas River project has been successfully replanted and permanently protected, while also providing a means for contributors to offset their carbon footprint. Having achieved success at Tensas River we have retired the project from the Voluntary Carbon Offset Program in order to provide donors an opportunity to support new carbon offset projects where financial support is currently more urgently needed.
Connecting Louisiana Wilderness
The Tensas River Basin Project is a historic opportunity to reforest private land in Tensas River Basin, Louisiana, where an estimated 74 percent of bottomland hardwood forests have been cleared and converted for agriculture.
By reforesting these private lands, the Conservancy protects land and restores critical habitat that will store forest carbon. This region is a priority for conservation because:
- Deforestation has left islands of remnant forests surrounded by a sea of agriculture – reforestation serves to connect small existing forest tracts to create critical wildlife corridors;
- It supports the largest-known population of the Louisiana Black Bear;
- It contains several priority bird conservation areas; and
- It hosts rare and endangered fish, mussels and aquatic ecosystems that are affected by adjacent agricultural lands.