We break ground on the restoration of North America’s Amazon in fall 2016. The first project will restore 4,000 acres of freshwater-forested wetland in the Pointe-aux-Chenes Bald Cypress Forest Wetland, Louisiana. The selection of this particular site is deeply symbolic.
Pointe-aux-Chenes is located in Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes, approximately 15 miles southeast of Houma, Louisiana.
The site is an essential ecosystem that includes diverse physical, biological and socioeconomic resources, including:
- Threatened and endangered species;
- High fish and bird value;
- Great economic value as commercial and recreational fisheries;
- The highest utilized wildlife management areas in LA;
- Home to the United Houma Nation and Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe.
It is the largest landmass providing the last line of defense protecting coastal communities from the open water of the Gulf of Mexico. This area is owned and managed by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries.
In 2005, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita damaged levees along the Gulf of Mexico, leading to major forest degradation, habitat deterioration, and reduced wildlife use. As a result, this area lost an extreme amount of land, with contiguous sections of wetlands being lost to open water.
The proposed area for this Project was once a historic bald cypress forest wetlands, which was degraded due to increased salinity levels and extreme fluctuations in hydrology. Since 2005, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries has restored the natural freshwater hydrology to this valuable area –utilizing existing levees including the Morganza to the Gulf of Mexico levee, and water control structures to regulate water saturation and establish intensive water management units.
This has protected the site from saltwater intrusion and stabilized the land, maintaining low salinity levels in the system. The Pointe-aux-Chenes site is now ready for landscape-scale restoration.
WHAT’S AT STAKE LOCALLY
The Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes, the “bayou parishes”, communities with a combined population of over 200,000, sit on thin fingers of land that are protected by surrounding wetland swamps and wetlands. To the south of the parishes is the Gulf of Mexico. The area is home to the United Houma Nation and Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe.
The Parishes depend on fishing, hunting, trapping, boat building, offshore oil and gas production and support activities. These Parishes contribute nearly 40 percent of the U.S. exports in the seafood industry. They are true coastal wetland environments.
Yet these communities are highly vulnerable to risks from natural hazards and future land loss. The ground is at or is close to sea level and therefore easily inundated by storm surges if not protected by wetlands. While some communities are protected by a levee system, the Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes remain vulnerable to the impacts of flooding and hurricane.
WHAT’S AT STAKE NATIONALLY?
The wetlands in this region represent about 40% of the wetlands of the continental United States.
These wetlands are absolutely essential on a nationwide scale, but around 80% of the Nation’s wetland loss is in Louisiana, about a football field of wetlands is lost every hour.
The wetland natural resources protect terrestrial and marine species and support communities, industries and millions of jobs nationwide.
- 30 percent of U.S. crude oil production
- 20 percent of U.S. natural gas production
- 20 percent of US commercial fishing catch and 30% of domestic seafood catch consumed in US
- Five of the 15 largest U.S. ports
- Hundreds of thousands of acres of wildlife habitat
- $2 billion in annual revenues from recreational hunting and fishing
- Winter habitat for millions of migratory birds
- #1 Nursery for all marine species of Caribbean Basin
- Home to approximately 2 million people
HOW CAN RESTORATION HELP?
Terrebonne and Lafourche communities understand their dependencies on and importance of the stewardship of their natural resources. They place wetland restoration and creation as top priorities to ensure air quality, water quality, hazard mitigation, storm water management, flood control and habitat value for the long-term stability, protection and resilience of their communities and local economies.
Reforestation of the Pointe-aux-Chenes site restores an essential ecosystem that includes diverse physical, biological and socioeconomic resources. The restoration enhances and protects overall health, resiliency, and sustainability of these communities.
- Enhance coastal wetland and watershed systems by re-establishing and stabilizing a critical bald cypress forest wetlands area.
- Protect local communities and indigenous nations, tribes from risks associated with storm surge and flood events, therefore enhancing their resilience.
- Restore native wildlife and fisheries, improve water quality, expand recreational areas, trap carbon dioxide and provide for community protection and resilience.
- Support sustainable hunting, fishing, camping and wildlife watching, supporting and rebuilding economic opportunities generated by recreation and tourism.
- Create local jobs, to initiate and implement the project; we contract with local nurseries and businesses.