Louisiana DWF Purchases Land in Joyce WMA

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The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), with funding assistance from several conservation partners, today announced the purchase of more than 7,200 acres within the boundaries of the Joyce Wildlife Management Area (WMA) from The Conservation Fund (TCF).

"The conservation and restoration of our state's coastal wetlands, like those found around Lake Pontchartrain, are of utmost importance and these vital resources must be protected for generations to come," said LDWF Secretary Robert Barham. "Our partners are to be commended for making this happen."

The nearly $2.2 million purchase was finalized during a ceremony at the June 5 Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission (LWFC) meeting. The land, formerly known as the Octavia tract in Tangipahoa Parish, had previously been leased from TCF.

"Coastal wetlands not only protect fragile ecosystems, but also provide important public recreation opportunities," said Ray Herndon, TCF's director of the lower Mississippi region. "This effort is a testament to the power of partnerships. It proves that all sectors - governmental, corporate and non-profit - can work together to achieve great outcomes. We commend all the parties involved, especially the members of Octavia Partners, for their commitment to this effort and their willingness to enable this important project."

The funding sources making the purchase possible include a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grant ($1.67 million), a North American Wetland Conservation Act grant ($392,000) and $100,000 from LDWF's Wildlife Habitat Natural Heritage Trust Fund. TCF was able to reduce the state's purchase price with $450,000 provided by a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Grant through its partnership with Shell Oil ($250,000) and private funds donated through TCF by Ameriprise Financial ($200,000).

"We have to take the necessary steps to ensure the preservation of Louisiana's natural environments," said Senator David Vitter in correspondence delivered to ceremony participants. "Our state's wetlands support a vibrant ecosystem, provide recreational and educational opportunities to Louisianans of all ages and are a critical component of hurricane protection. The conservation of these unique areas will ensure their enjoyment by future generations of Louisianans."

Senator Mary Landrieu, when informed of the property acquisition, said, "This unique collaboration between public, private and nonprofit entities demonstrates our shared commitment to preserving and restoring Louisiana's vital wetlands. I have long championed the protection and restoration of the vital ecosystem along our coast, which provides a natural barrier of protection from storms. I was also proud to secure an independent funding stream for this purpose in 2006 when Congress passed the Domenici-Landrieu Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act. Protecting Louisiana's ecosystems is not only critical for our communities -- it also greatly benefits the rest of the nation that so relies on our Gulf seafood industry and the domestic energy we produce off our coast."

To date, funding support from NOAA's Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP) has helped to preserve more than 32,000 coastal acres throughout the U.S. In addition, $15 million is included for the CELCP in the fiscal year 2009 budget request for NOAA.

"NOAA has been pleased to support the implementation of the CELCP since its creation by Congress in 2002," said David Kennedy, director of the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management. "The CELCP's objective -- to help permanently conserve lands in coastal and estuarine areas with significant ecological, conservation, historic, aesthetic, or recreation values -- will clearly be met by the protection of the Octavia tract addition to Joyce WMA."

"We are fortunate to have both private and governmental funding sources able to support the department's land acquisitions goals and help secure more public land for conservation management and outdoor recreational use," said LWFC Chairman Patrick Morrow.

Joyce WMA is located five miles south of Hammond. The area consists of 12,809 acres donated to LDWF by the Joyce Foundation in 1982 and 2,250 acres donated by Guste Heirs in 1994. An additional 850 acres and 484 acres are leased from the Joyce Foundation and the Tangipahoa Parish School Board, respectively. With the addition of the 7,274-acre Octavia tract and the 1,040-acre Salmen tract also acquired from TCF this month, Joyce WMA acreage now totals 24,707.

"The North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) Council works closely with regional bird habitat conservation groups such as the Gulf Coast Joint Venture (GCJV) to stimulate partnerships that conserve wetlands for birds," said GCJV Coordinator Barry Wilson. "The acquisition of this tract exemplifies both a committed group of partners and a tract of important migratory bird habitat."

The entire area is a wetland within the Pontchartrain Basin and consists primarily of cypress-tupelo swamp. A large portion of the area is a dense shrub-marsh community with red maple, wax-myrtle, red bay, and younger cypress-tupelo. A 500-acre fresh marsh of primarily maiden-cane is located on the northern portion of the property.

Game species found within the WMA include deer, rabbits, squirrel and waterfowl. The primary importance of the tract to hunters is its waterfowl resource. Mallard and woodduck are the major species using the area along with gadwall, widgeon and pintail occurring less frequently. Trapping is permitted for raccoon, nutria, muskrat, otter, mink and opossum. Alligators are also common on the area.

An elevated boardwalk constructed in 1990 at the northwest corner of the WMA provides visitors easy access to view wildlife and vegetation within the ecosystem. For more information and directions to Joyce WMA, visit the LDWF Web site at bboehringer@wlf.louisiana.gov; or Vanessa Vaughan, TCF Media Relations Manager, ph. 703-908-5809 or vvaughan@conservationfund.org.