LOWER MISSISSIPPI RIVER
The Natural Resources Conservation Service, working with the Mississippi River Trust and Lower Mississippi River Conservation Committee through the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP) program, is offering monetary incentives to landowners in six states in the Lower Mississippi River floodplain, an area known as the “batture,” so they can re-forest cleared or open land. The batture covers 2 million acres.
Lands within the river’s active floodplain from Cairo, Illinois, to the Port of Baton Rouge in Louisiana.
Reforestation of these batture lands will:
- Lessen the amount of excess nutrients entering the river and the Gulf of Mexico.
- Reduce flooding of farmland.
- Reduce federal crop insurance payments.
- Increase opportunities for outdoor recreation.
- Expand habitat for bears, migratory birds, white-tailed deer and other wildlife.
- Sequester harmful carbon dioxide from the atmosphere
Began in May 2012. Conservation easements on nearly 35,000 acres have been secured to date or are pending closure.
- Mississippi River Trust
- Lower Mississippi River Conservation Committee
- U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service
Matching funds are provided by the Walton Family Foundation, the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
Water Quality Benefits
Scientific studies and federal data show that converting farmland to forested wetlands can significantly reduce amounts of harmful nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) entering the river and the Gulf of Mexico.
Through the batture reforestation project, more than 30 pounds of nutrients per acre per year can be avoided. That number is expected to increase over time as wetlands become more effective at absorbing nutrients from floodwaters.
Wildlife and Recreation Benefits
Hunting and Fishing
The forests, lakes and other habitats that remain in the river’s floodplain provide some of this nation’s best hunting and fishing opportunities. Efforts to manage wildlife habitat in the remaining floodplain, such as the reforestation project, will only expand recreational opportunities and the value of recreational land.
Dozens of species of songbirds, including the prothonotary warbler, inhabit the forests along the Lower Mississippi River. Reforesting land in the floodplain will help create larger blocks of forest needed to keep bird populations healthy as they nest along the river or use the river corridor in their migration between northern nesting grounds and wintering areas in the Tropics.
The forests of the Lower Mississippi River floodplain provide important habitat for Black Bear to travel safely and regain viable populations in the region. Bears are an important part of the region’s natural and cultural heritage. President Theodore Roosevelt’s bear-hunting trips to Mississippi and Louisiana in the early 1900s gave rise to the “Teddy Bear” toy.