When Americans settled in the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley in the 18th century, they found 25 million acres of forested wetlands.
First, they cleared small patches for subsistence crops, then more for cotton, and more for rice, and ended up with a fragmented landscape. Wildlife lost habitat.
In the 1960s there was a wholesale clearing of very wet land for soybeans, soybeans only because they were fetching a really good price and they have a very short growing season and can be planted after spring flooding eases. When the price of soybeans fell, these farmers found themselves sitting on very wet land that was not much good for anything but soybeans and trees.
It’s the tree that got Newt Boggs thinking: devise a program where farmers plant trees in vacant land.
Mr. Boggs is one of many individuals involved in restoring forested wetlands in the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley. They get help from the U.S. Forest Service and Ducks Unlimited.
Research has been done in the Yazoo Basin of Mississippi to relearn what we lost when we cleared the forests: what trees grow best where in a landscape that has wet and drier places.
Cypress thrive in places like Whites Lake, an old slough running near the Black River in Catahoula Parish. But cypress cannot germinate in water, only in mud. Hence, many years ago Whites Lake dried out enough for these trees to sprout. The oaks–Nuttall, Shumard, overcup– need slightly higher, slightly drier land.