October 21, 2014

NATCHITOCHES PARISH, La.—Young cypress, oak and hickory trees will welcome tens of thousands of migrating waterfowl and song birds this fall as they rest at the Red River National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) near Shreveport during their annual migration. Thanks to a multi-year partnership between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and The Conservation Fund, these critical lands along Refuge’s Lower Cane River Unit have been protected and restored for the benefit of wildlife and nearby communities.

The recent transfer of 1,731 acres to USFWS caps a five-year effort to preserve nearly 4,500 acres at the Refuge.  Red River NWR was established in 2000 with the goal of restoring the bottomlands associated with the Red River Valley in Louisiana to native hardwood forests, in support of over 40 species of mammals, 200 species of neotropical birds and over 14 species of waterfowl.

In 2008 the opportunity arose to conserve land within an area the refuge identified as its highest priority for protection. The Conservation Fund purchased the land from willing sellers, temporarily holding it while USFWS secured the funding for its permanent acquisition. During that time, the Fund’s carbon offset program, Go Zero®, planted over 354,000 native cypress, oak and hickory trees on the property with donations from individuals, companies and foundations. The growing forests provide habitat for a variety of wildlife, help improve the water quality of the river, remove CO2 from the air as they grow and expand public recreational opportunities at the NWR.

Utilizing money from the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund (Duck Stamps), private donations and the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), USFWS purchased the land from The Conservation Fund through several phases, making significant progress towards the conservation goals for the Red River. LWCF is a bipartisan, federal program that uses a percentage of proceeds from offshore oil and gas royalties—not taxpayer dollars—to acquire critical lands and protect our country’s best natural resources.

U.S. Senators Mary Landrieu and David Vitter and U.S. Representative John Fleming have supported federal programmatic appropriations for the LWCF and other efforts to establish and protect the Red River NWR.  

“I am pleased that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and The Conservation Fund are able to partner on a long-term plan to preserve Louisiana’s rich natural resources,” said Senator Mary L. Landrieu, chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. “The conservation of the Red River Wildlife Refuge highlights the critical importance of revenue sharing reform and identifies exactly how royalties from the oil and gas industries enable the funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. I have long been a supporter of projects like this one; to restore our state’s environment while also providing additional hunting opportunities for sportsmen.”

The Red River flows 1,360 miles from the Texas panhandle to the Mississippi River and gets its name from the red clay soil of its banks. In Louisiana, the river basin’s shrub swamp, cypress sloughs and bottomland hardwood forest provide an important stop over point for migratory birds and crucial wintering grounds for waterfowl and wading birds. A century ago, these forests covered nearly 30 million acres along the Red River and the lower Mississippi River valley. However, after decades of conversion to farmland, the forest is only a fraction of the size it used to be. 

“This project has been a great partnership, assisting the refuge in meeting its dual purpose to restore native habitats and provide habitat for migratory birds, particularly waterfowl,” said Refuge Manager Pat Stinson. “These new areas also give us a chance to provide more hunting opportunities for our visitors in the fall and winter.”

“Restoring the Red River basin is a long-term effort, but we’re dedicated to seeing this area return to its former glory,” said Ray Herndon, director of The Conservation Fund’s Lower Mississippi Region. “We’re grateful to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and to Congress for continually approving innovative programs such as the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which make projects like this succeed.”

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, we are redefining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have worked in all 50 states to protect more than 7.5 million acres of land since 1985.

About the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov/southeast. Connect with us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/usfwssoutheast, follow our tweets at www.twitter.com/usfwssoutheast, watch our YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usfws, and download photos from our Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwssoutheast.

Press Release Contacts
Ann Simonelli | The Conservation Fund | 703-908-5809 | asimonelli@conservationfund.org
Tom MacKenzie | U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service | 404-679-7291 | tom_mackenzie@fws.gov
Pat Stinson | Red River National Wildlife Refuge / USFWS | 318-742-1219 | pat_stinson@fws.gov