Mississippi River Trust Receives Two Conservation Grants to Protect and Enhance Lower Mississippi River Floodplain Habitats

Projects - Species - Research
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STONEVILLE, MS (October 1, 2019) – The Mississippi River Trust has received two grants from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for the protection, restoration and enhancement of important fish and wildlife habitats along the Lower Mississippi River. The grants from the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley Restoration Fund total $891,565.

The grants will be matched by approximately $1.32 million in cash and in-kind services provided by the Trust and partners, for a total conservation impact of more than $2.21 million.

The grants will allow the Trust and its conservation partners to:

  • Begin developing a comprehensive forest management program for more than 700,000 acres of private lands enrolled in Wetland Reserve Easements in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. These lands were replanted in bottomland hardwood trees over the last 25 years because they flooded frequently and therefore were no longer suitable for growing crops, but many tracts need to be thinned and otherwise managed to maximize benefits to songbirds such as the Prothonotary Warbler, the Louisiana Black Bear and other wildlife.
  • Provide an inventory of more than 30,000 acres of bottomland hardwood forests in Mississippi, established through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Wetland Reserve Program. This inventory will offer landowners, land managers, and the NRCS valuable information needed to guide management treatments that enhance wildlife habitat at a landscape scale.
  • Protect or restore more than 2,000 acres of additional bottomland hardwood forest on private lands in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.
  • Restore water flow to two Lower Mississippi River secondary channels that are important for various fish and other wildlife. This project will involve enhancement of approximately 5 miles of secondary channel habitat, adding to more than 100 miles already enhanced along the Lower Mississippi River. Such work benefits at-risk species such as the Pallid Sturgeon, the Interior Least Tern and the Fat Pocketbook mussel.
  • Test a method of enhancing Mississippi River secondary channels by trapping floating branches and logs. This “large woody debris,” as river scientists call it, provides important habitat for aquatic insects that help form the base of the river’s food chain.

Partners working with the Trust on forest protection, restoration and enhancement include the Mississippi Forestry Commission and the NRCS. Partners working with the Trust on aquatic habitat restoration and enhancement include U.S. Army Corps of Engineers District offices, the Corps’ Engineer, Research and Development Center, The Nature Conservancy, and the Lower Mississippi River Conservation Committee, a six-state cooperative representing state and federal natural resource and environmental protection agencies.

All projects will occur in either the active floodplain of the river, also called the “batture,” or the larger Mississippi Alluvial Valley, the river’s historic floodplain. The active floodplain covers 2 million acres of land and water between the levees or high bluffs from Cairo, Illinois, to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The historic floodplain covers 24 million acres from Cairo to the Gulf of Mexico.

Roughly 80 percent of forests in the historic floodplain were converted to farm land over the last 100 years, and levees and other river management reduced the active floodplain by more than 90 percent. Despite these changes, the active floodplain is still the largest floodplain of any U.S. river system.

“The Trust and its conservation partners have been working for nearly 20 years to improve fish and wildlife habitat, working forests, flood resilience, water quality and outdoor recreation in this important landscape,” said James L. Cummins, the Trust’s president. “These grants will allow the Trust and its partners to be more focused, innovative and successful.”

“The Mississippi River Trust projects will be key to maintaining existing bottomland hardwood forests and restoring wetland forest and floodplain hydrology and improving water quality,” said Jay Jensen, director of the NFWF Southern Regional Office. “We’re extremely pleased to be central to partnerships such as Forestland Stewards with International Paper and Southern Woods At-Risk Wildlife with the American Forest Foundation, which support critical habitat in the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley.”

NFWF’s Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley Restoration Fund is a public-private partnership supported with federal funding from the NRCS and the U.S. Forest Service and private funding from International Paper's Forestland Stewards partnership, the Walton Family Foundation, and American Forest Foundation's Southern Woods At-Risk Wildlife partnership. In total, six grants were awarded this year to various organizations, with a total conservation impact of nearly $4.3 million to support efforts to restore, enhance and protect more than 10,000 acres of forest and wetland habitats.

The Mississippi River Trust is a nonprofit, charitable conservation organization working with willing private landowners and government agencies to conserve fish and wildlife habitat in the Lower Mississippi River region. Learn more at www.mississippirivertrust.org.

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) works with the public and private sectors to sustain, restore and enhance the nation’s fish, wildlife, plants and habitats for current and future generations. Chartered by Congress in 1984, NFWF has grown to become the nation’s largest private conservation grant-maker, supporting more than 17,250 projects and generating a total conservation impact of more than $5.3 billion. Learn more at www.nfwf.org.