Beyond the Boundaries

Lower Mississippi

Help Us Protect the Lower Mississippi River Valley

The Lower Mississippi Alluvial Plain is a wildlife enthusiast’s paradise. It’s rich soil, seasonal flooding, meandering rivers and a long, hot growing season create a diversity of habitat types. Forests, wetlands, and agricultural lands support abundant waterfowl, including the nation’s largest wintering population of mallard ducks. Bottomland hardwood forests provide essential habitat for declining neotropical migratory songbirds such as Swainson’s warbler, and the spring woods are alive with the trill of wood thrush passing through. Swallow-tailed kites soar above, while the search is always on for the elusive ivory-billed woodpecker. These bottomlands also support Arkansas black bear, an endangered subspecies of the American black bear.

The Cache River watershed and Bayou deView, its major tributary, is one of only fifteen wetlands systems worldwide to hold the designation of Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention. Hunting and other recreational opportunities, supported by waterfowl and other wildlife dependent on Cache River National Wildlife Refuge, are second only to agriculture in terms of positive impact on the rural economies of Eastern Arkansas.

Land acquisition at Cache River NWR has enjoyed broad public support following the expansion of the refuge in 2013. In FY15, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will acquire as much as 2,000 acres of high value habitat that also links existing protected areas, while a total of fourteen willing sellers with a combined acreage of over 6,800 acres have expressed interest in working on conservation transactions with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In addition, the Service is targeting properties that offer the opportunity for reforestation partnerships with the NRCS Wetlands Reserve Program.

Significance and Threats

Mississippi River Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge by Warren Smith
Mississippi River Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge | Warren Smith

The wetlands of the Lower Mississippi support millions of wintering waterfowl and draw hunters from around the world. Less famous, but no less important, are the bottomland hardwood forests of this region, which provide crucial migratory and nesting habitat to declining bird species such as Swainson’s warbler, wood thrush, swallow-tailed kite and possibly the elusive ivory-billed woodpecker. This landscape is also the last stronghold for the Louisiana black bear, an endangered subspecies of the American black bear numbering about 100.

As with other areas along this storied river, the Lower Mississippi Valley has been dramatically altered by humans. Two centuries ago, this region was covered with 24 million acres of bottomland hardwood and swamp forests. Today, more than 80 percent of these forests have been fragmented by development or converted to farmland. The river and its tributaries have been dammed, diverted and diked, leaving some forests dry and others flooded. Pesticides, fertilizers and other chemicals have polluted the waters. All of these changes have taken a huge toll on fish and wildlife.

What The Refuge Association is doing

To safeguard the wildlife of the Lower Mississippi, The Refuge Association worked with the a diverse group of partners to identify key landscapes for protection and restoration. The Refuge Association is now working with these partners to:

  • Help acquire and restore crucial wildlife habitat at Cache River and White River refuges in Arkansas;
  • Support planning, community outreach and expansion efforts at Tensas River refuge in Louisiana;
  • Identify and restore important habitat in the Atchafalaya Basin and southeast Louisiana.
Mallards taking flight | Michael A. Kelly
Mallards taking flight | Michael A. Kelly

Find out more information in our fact sheet.

What can you do to help?

By making a contribution to the National Wildlife Refuge Association you’ll enable our team to continue developing landscape scale conservation methods to protect and enhance the Connecticut River area, the Silvio Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, and other landscapes and wildlife across the country. Please consider making a donation today.

You can also join our Action Team and be the first to be notified of new important actions you can take on behalf of the refuge system and the wildlife that live within it. Through the Action Network you will be able to learn about new measures in congress that you can either advocate for or against, sending your message directly to your congress person. Please join today and help us stand up for the refuges!

Permanent link to this article: http://refugeassociation.org/lower-mississippi/