The Louisiana Natural Heritage Program (LNHP) within the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) is cooperating with several partners to move coastal prarie plants threatened by road construction to existing prairie restoration sites. This project was originally scheduled for November, but had to be rescheduled for Jan. 20 and 21 due to especially dry soil conditions.
Southwest Louisiana once contained vast expanses of coastal prairie interspersed with gallery forests adjacent to streams and bayous. These coastal prairies, similar to tallgrass prairies of the midwestern U.S., were incredibly diverse with more than 500 plant species and serving as home to a multitude of grassland birds, waterfowl, insects and other wildlife.
The estimated 2.5 million acres of original Louisiana coastal prairie have been reduced to fewer than 1,000 acres. Much of the former prairie was converted to pasture for cattle grazing, or altered for growing rice, sugarcane and forage crops. The majority of the remnant prairies now exist along railroad rights-of-way between railroad tracks and highways, and are continually threatened by human activities.
One of these highway segments, U.S. Highway 165 between Kinder and Interstate 10 in Allen and Jefferson Davis parishes, is currently slated for a road-widening project. The majority of the prairie remnants along this stretch of U.S. 165 are located to the east of the roadway, while the road expansion will occur to the west side. However, one small four-acre prairie remnant identified by LNHP is in the path of the proposed roadway.
LDWF is working with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, the landowner of the prairie site (Gulf South Pipeline Corp), and other organizations to rescue the prairie plants found on the area. Working together, these groups plan to dig the prairie sod by hand from the U.S. 165 project site and transport and transplant the sod to two existing prairie restoration sites, one in Eunice and the other near Duralde.
This is a multi-group effort, with volunteers and technical assistance also coming from the Cajun Prairie Habitat Preservation Society, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the U.S. Geological Survey National Wetlands Research Center, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Allen Parish Correctional facility, AmeriCorps of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, The Nature Conservancy, and others.
LDWF, in preparation for implementation of its new Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy, views this as an opportunity to help preserve part of the imperiled coastal prairie habitat, while developing and fostering relationships with the many partners on this project.
EDITORS: For more information, contact Patti Faulkner, Natural Heritage Program ecologist, at 225-765-2975 or firstname.lastname@example.org .