Winding through the refuge, the river separates two very different landscapes: on the west side, a lush forest of native trees covers the land, while on the east side open farm fields unfold for acres. Up until the early part of the 20th century, these farm fields were dense hardwood forests; in the 1960s, when food prices began to skyrocket, lush forests and waterways throughout Louisiana were cleared, leaving behind a drastically altered landscape of fragmented forestland.

But this area was unsuitable for agriculture. Significant and frequent flooding resulted in soggy crops and caused problems along the river for communities throughout the region.

Restoration Efforts

Upper Ouachita is the largest ongoing floodplain restoration project in the United States. The Fund has been working in the area for years, taking several strategic approaches to return the land to its natural forested state.

The 16,000-acre Mollicy Farm was cleared back in the 1960s for soybean crops. A 17-mile levee was constructed around the fields to control the river’s natural flow, but the land’s low elevation meant it continued to flood. The decrease in forestland also meant a decrease in wildlife habitat and in water quality for communities downstream, since the trees that helped slow and filter floodwater were gone.

In 2010 we protected more than 3,900 acres at the Mollicy Farm area of the Upper Ouachita NWR. This land connects 13,000 acres of existing refuge lands and protects habitat for tens of thousands of migratory birds, which visit the refuge every year for resting, foraging and breeding. It also provides public recreation opportunities, enhances air and water quality and reduces flooding and erosion. Protecting this property was a priority for the refuge for many years.

We’ve also been helping restore this land to its native forest habitat. In 2010, we planted 108,000 native hickory, oak and cypress seedlings on 358 acres, thanks to Dell’s Plant a Tree for a Friend Facebook campaign. In 2012, with the help of many generous donors and partners, including BCBGeneration, Breathe Right and ShadeFund™, we planted our one-millionth tree at the refuge. We are aiming to restore another 400 acres with help from Dell and

We’re continuing to work to restore forests at Mollicy Farm through our Carbon and Climate work. With the help of generous donors and partners, The Conservation Fund is raising donations to plant more than 785,000 trees on 2,606 acres of Mollicy Farm. In 2013 and 2014, we restored an additional 400 acres adjacent to our existing carbon project lands. While these 400 acres will not be validated to a carbon standard, the trees will remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and provide important key climate benefits, including cleaner air and cleaner water. With your support, we can build on this success and restore this landscape to what it once was.

“While those who live upstream may not notice that the water is a little clearer, or that the river doesn’t rise as high next year, those of us downstream will take note, and we are grateful for all of the partners and donors who have helped make this project a reality.”

–Harris Brown, president of the Tensas Basin Levee District in Monroe

Why This Project Matters

As the forests are restored and the trees grow, they’ll increase the land’s ability to store water and decrease floods in communities downstream, including the city of Monroe. They also help to filter excess nutrients from the water such as agricultural fertilizers, improving the water quality and clarity.



  • Wildlife: deer, turkey, alligator, bald eagle, threatened Louisiana black bear and 265 species of migratory birds – in particular, ducks
  • Water: cleaner water for downstream communities, including Monroe and West Monroe
  • Economy: tree planting job creation, decreased impacts of flooding for farmers
  • Recreation: visitors can hike, fish, birdwatch, hunt, and learn about nature on many of the tracts