It never hurts to reiterate William Dunbar’s 1804 description of what modern wildlife managers call moist soil management:
“Catahoola Lake lies west of this place & communicates with the Red river during the time of the great annual inundation; it receives at the West or N.W. angle a Creek called little river, which preserves a channel with running water at all seasons, meandering along the bed of the lake; but all other parts of its superficies during the dry season from July to November & often latter, are completely drained & become clothed in the most luxuriant herbage: the bid of the Lake them becomes the residence of immense herds of Deer, of Turkeys, Geese, Ducks, Cranes &c&cc feeding on the grass and grain; the Duck species being generally found on or near the little river.”– William Dunbar, 1804[i]
Last summer, while BP oil gushed out of the Mancondo well in the Gulf of Mexico, I wrote about the public and private refuges in Southeast Louisiana and Mississippi. Birders and duck hunters were concerned that oil would foul the wintering grounds of the ducks and geese that descend on Louisiana every winter and that more birds would be lost to oil. And the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was preparing the Moist Soil Units in places like the Catahoula NWR in Louisiana and the Panther NWR in Mississippi.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service was encouraging farmers and ranchers to manage their properties for migrating waterfowl this winter. The U.S. Department of Agriculture allocated $6.1 million dollars to the project, giving money to private refuges as well as farmers and ranchers to create duck-friendly wetlands on their properties. Some of that money went to Tara Wildlife, a private refuge north of Vicksburg, which Audubon has name an IBA, a bird area of International importance.
It’s cold and snowy in the Dakotas and Minnesota, where American waterfowl nest in the summer, but its warm and there is plenty of food available in Louisiana’s wildlife refuges and the ducks have arrived all across Louisiana, including the coastal refuges, the Delta NWR, which received no oil, and Pass a Loutre WMA, where oil washed the refuge last June. The ducks have arrived and so have the hunters. The worst has not happened.