“The American Black Bear lives a solitary life in forests and uncultivated deserts, and subsists on fruits and on the young shoots and roots of vegetatables. Of honey he is exceedingly fond, and, as he is a most expert climber, he scales the loftiest tress in search of it. Fish, too, he delights in, and is often found in quest of it on the borders of lakes and on the sea-shore.
“About the end of December, form the abundance of fruits they find in Louisiana and neighboring countries, the bears become so fat and lazy that they can scarcely run. At this time they are hunted by the American Indians.”— Louis Leclerc Buffon, 1831
On March 10 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated about 1.2 million acres of land as critical habitat for the Louisiana black bear under the Endangered Species Act. The land covers fifteen Louisiana parishes in a corridor that stretches from the Tensas National Wildlife Refuge across the Mississippi from Vicksburg south through the Atchafalaya Basin. Of the 1.2 million acres, 600,000 have already been restored or protected in the bears range. In 1992 we listed the bear as a threatened species.
Sugar cane farmers and loggers fear loss of their lands and incomes if the bears needs take precedent over their own. However critical habitat is not a refuge. Some activities can continue. Sugar farmers can continue unless they need a federal permit to clear forests for cane fields. Timber harvest that does not destroy the landscape can continue.