Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) cover approximately 1.6 million acres of land in Louisiana. These lands are protected from development and urbanization and it’s where animals can find homes that will not be destroyed by humans. Wildlife Management Areas play a vital role in Louisiana’s ecosystem due to the wildlife protection, coastal restoration, and conservation projects that take place in these areas. The goal of these areas is to manage the land so that it will be sustainable for generations to come.
WMAs serve as a protection area for wildlife, especially animals that are considered endangered. For example, in the past few years the Louisiana black bear has been removed from the endangered list for Louisiana. WMAs also provide good areas for animals to breed and live their lives without the threat of deforestation. The brown pelican has also been brought back to Louisiana in recent years from years of being exposed to the chemical DDT which caused eggs that where to have new hatchlings to break easily.
And lastly WMAs have made it possible for sea life such as oysters that greatly impact the ecosystem from being commercially fished
In April 2016, the Louisiana black bear, which was fighting extinction in the area of Louisiana, was removed from the endangered list and is now considered “recovered” (DataStream Content Solutions 9). The Louisiana black bear’s comeback was highly impacted due to regulations and protection they received on WMAs. The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries closely monitored areas that the black bear inhabited and where able to focus on their populations and breeding grounds.
Wildlife Management Areas are areas that are protected from deforestation and other human interference. For example, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries place nesting boxes around designated areas to provide homes for birds such as wood ducks. These boxes allow birds to make nests that are protected from natures elements and make for a great home for new hatchlings to grow until they are able to leave the nest and do what birds do best. Without the risks of human interference such as deforestation other animals such as deer have a place to live without the threat of being pushed out into human inhabited areas where the threat of hunger and being killed would likely happen.
Louisiana also almost lost its state bird, the brown pelican, due to pesticides such as DDT that caused the birds’ eggs to have a very weak shell that would collapse and not be able to support a hatchling (Hardy3). Since then, Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries put regulations on the use of DDT and many pesticides like it. To bring back the brown pelican to Louisiana, beginning in 1968, young chicks where transported from Florida and raised until they could fly. Later being released on Queen Bess Island where they returned the following years to nest (Hardy5-7). In 2009 the Brown pelican was removed from the endangered list.
WMAs provide a good place for oysters and other shellfish to colonies without the threat of being wiped out by commercial fishing. Oysters form reefs which make great homes for lots of sea-life. Oysters help filter water as well, “The Oyster Reef Recovery Initiative”, one adult oyster can filter up to 55 gallons of water a day. Due to the restrictions of commercial fishing in any WMA this makes it so that these colonies can thrive directly impacting other sea life, giving them homes and protection from predators.
WMA’s also benefit Louisiana’s ecosystem from the many conservation projects that take place on or for these lands. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), focus on these lands mainly because they are federally owned and operated unlike privately owned lands are only controlled by the landowner themselves. Conservation projects include, creating more land for seabirds, protecting oyster beds that highly benefit the ecosystem, and keeping invasive species, especially the nutria rat, from destroying land. Conserving land and wildlife in Louisiana greatly help Louisiana’s ecosystem and helps it stay healthy for years to come.
The protection of oyster beds brings many benefits to the ecosystem, oyster beds can filter water, help prevent water erosion, and create homes to many fish and sea life. The LDWF set rules and regulations that protect these reefs, there are set locations made so that reefs that will be truly harmed from commercial gathering will not happen. There are also set limits that prevent boats from gathering too many oysters. “Any vessel from which any person takes or attempts to take oysters from the public oyster seed grounds and reservations will be limited to a daily take not to exceed 25 sacks of oysters per vessel” (LDWF) This rule greatly benefits oyster beds so that they are not all wiped out in a short period of time.
Ducks Unlimited (DU), a nonprofit organization that focuses on conservation projects to keep wildlife and lands sustainable for many generations to come, dedicated a project to form a three-acre island so that birds could nest and be safe from land predators. This project was the Pass a Loutre WMA bird enhancement project, where sediment in a nearby channel was pumped into an open bay to create an island approximately 3 acres. This island will serve as “A safe nesting area for colonial seabirds without the threat of land predators.” (DU) this project directly impacts the birdlife and took sediment that was once underwater and used it to create more land.
Lastly to help protect local plant life from being destroyed from nutria, an invasive species that eats plants, the LDWF started a program called the Coastwide Nutria Control Program. This program has a set season that trappers are able to collect nutria and turn them in for a set bounty, in the 2018-2019 season, “223,155 nutria tails worth $1,115,775” (LDWF) was collected. The control of these pests is essential to protecting lands that are prone to erosion, “It is estimated that approximately 16,424 acres of wetlands impacted by nutria as of April 2018. The chance of restoring or even slowing the degradation of coastal marshes in Louisiana will be hampered considerably without sustained reduction of nutria populations.” (LDWF) When the nutria eats and kills the plants, the root system that holds soil in place from being washed away by rain or current is weakened allowing soil to quickly erode. The Coastwide Nutria Control Program has greatly impacted the fight against land loss on Louisiana’s WMAs.
WMAs are places that the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries have made great efforts to restore land from erosion. The LDWF and other organizations such as Ducks Unlimited have worked very hard to keep the land from being washed away by forming projects that bring back land or keep it from being washed away. These projects include, forming reefs or planting artificial reefs that slows down the energy waves produce, Tom’s Bayou Project and Prien Lake Weir funded by the North American Wetland Conservation Act, and the Pointe-aux-Chenes WMA Project (moist soil project).
Oysters are also a very useful and natural tool, scientist have found, to conserve land from erosion. Oyster beds are placed in areas of erosion problems to help break apart waves and slow the process of land deterioration. WMA’s create protection of oyster beds from being commercially fished thus helping these types of reefs to grow and create excellent wave breaks and thus slowing erosion, “Measuring erosion over a year, the authors found that their small, fringing oyster shell reefs were effective in slowing erosion.” (Piazza) These oyster beds pose a natural way to protect Louisiana’s shorelines and benefit water quality at the same time.
The Tom’s Bayou Project and Prien Lake Weir was a project funded by the North American Wetland Conservation Act (NAWCA), “NAWCA grants fund projects in the United States, Canada and Mexico that involve long-term protection, restoration, and/or enhancement of wetlands.” (DU 3) This project was created to form rock weirs to slow tidal action that carries soil away through the current. This project “benefited 7,500 acres of land.” (DU) Another weir was made on Bayou Prien “benefitting a 630-acre area.” (DU) this project of weirs has greatly helped Louisiana’s ecosystem due to the saving of many acres of land, that land animals and fish can find refuge.
To properly restore land and keep migratory birds in the area to feed during the winter months and create nesting habitat during the summer months the LDWF and Ducks Unlimited partnered in creating a project that would keep water levels in Pointe aux Chenes WMA. Ducks Unlimited funded this project that created levees around an 85-acre area, along with water pumps that will fill that area with water for a few selective months of the year. The southern end is largely unmanaged and provides limited benefits from a wildlife perspective. This project will help combat against erosion that caused this area, that was once ideal areas for waterfowl and other birdlife to again return in numbers, “The LDWF and Ducks Unlimited have partnered to implement a moist-soil unit management project that will replicate flooding, but at a larger scale.” (DU) The flooding that will result from this project will be manually controlled so that the ecosystem can be benefited to its highest potential, “Flooding the fields with freshwater during the fall and winter will provide optimal foraging habitat for migratory birds, including waterfowl. Draining the fields in the early spring will encourage the growth of annual grasses for nesting habitat to benefit mottled ducks and secretive marsh birds.” (DU)
Wildlife Management Areas play a vital role in Louisiana’s ecosystem due to the wildlife protection, coastal restoration, and conservation projects that take place in these areas. People can go in these areas and enjoy the many activities these lands have to offer, thanks to those who are dedicated to keeping these lands thriving. Louisiana has a very special ecosystem that can’t be found anywhere else therefore keeping these lands protected is very important so that the generations to come can enjoy these special places for years to come.
Bryan P. Piazza, “The Potential for Created Oyster Shell Reefs as a Sustainable Shoreline Protection Strategy in Louisiana” https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1526-100X.2005.00062.x
DataStream Content Solutions, LLC,” Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removal of the Louisiana Black Bear from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Removal of Similarity-of-Appearance Protections for the American Black Bear” https://go.gale.com/ps/retrieve.do?tabID=T004&resultListType=RESULT_LIST&searchResultsType=SingleTab&searchType=BasicSearchForm¤tPosition=7&docId=GALE%7CA445865045&docType=Article&sort=Relevance&contentSegment=ZONE-MOD1&prodId=GPS&contentSet=GALE%7CA445865045&searchId=R3&userGroupName=lap52fhs&inPS=true
DU, “Multi-project Dedication in Coastal Louisiana” https://www.ducks.org/conservation/sr/louisiana/multi-project-dedication-in-coastal-louisiana
LDWF “Nutria Control Program” https://www.nutria.com/site9.php
The Oyster Reef Recovery Initiative “5 benefits of a healthy oyster population” http://oystersforthebay.com/2012/08/22/5-benefits-of-a-healthy-oyster-population/
Steve Hardy “50 years after Louisiana state bird’s reintroduction, brown pelicans face this new threat” https://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/environment/article_88a5f278-c68d-11e8-bcda-77bfb6217478.html
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) “Oyster Season” http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/fishing/oyster-season