The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) has reforested 495 acres of agricultural land on the South Bosco Tract of Russell Sage Wildlife Management Area (WMA). Through funding provided by the Arbor Day Foundation, this acreage was identified for restoration and planted with site-appropriate bottomland hardwood species.
Russell Sage WMA forms one of the largest remaining tracts of the vast bottomland hardwood forests that historically composed the lower Mississippi River floodplain from lower Illinois to the Gulf of Mexico. Russell Sage WMA was the first LDWF-owned WMA, established through the purchase of 15,000 acres of the property in 1960. Since then, LDWF has leased and purchased several adjacent tracts, then consolidated the former Ouachita WMA with Russell Sage WMA in March 2015, with the current total of 38,213 acres.
Bottomland hardwood forests are the predominant natural community type of the Mississippi River Alluvial Valley (MAV). These habitats are important natural communities for maintenance of water quality, providing habitat for a variety of fish and wildlife species and providing wetland functions.
Conversion of bottomland hardwood forests to agriculture throughout the 20th century had resulted in conversion of approximately 75 percent of the 25 million acres that this habitat type once occupied in the MAV.
Through reforestation efforts across the MAV, reconnecting fragmented forested habitats and restoring wetland forest functions are essential to providing adequate wildlife habitats and meeting conservations needs. Through projects such as this, in cooperation with partners such as the Arbor Day Foundation, these efforts are proving successful at meeting these challenges and restoring this critical habitat throughout much of the MAV.
The Arbor Day Foundation, the world’s largest nonprofit membership organization dedicated to tree planting, has committed to plant 500 million trees with a focus on neighborhoods and forests of greatest need in the next five years. Since the founding of the reforestation program in 1990, the Arbor Day Foundation has planted nearly 150 million trees in natural forested areas across 51 countries.
Russell Sage WMA is located in Morehouse, Ouachita, Richland, and Caldwell parishes. For more information, go to https://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/
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