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Lake life

An early Christmas present

Area outdoors enthusiasts just got an early Christmas present.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Wildlife Management Areas may be growing in north Louisiana and that could give Morehouse and Union parish residents new outdoor recreation opportunities, including public hunting.

LDWF has reached a tentative agreement with Molpus Woodlands Group on behalf of a client to acquire 8,755 acres of land in Morehouse and Union parishes that would be managed as two WMAs. The tracts are along Chemin-A-Haut Bayou (3,842 acres), located in Morehouse Parish, and Bayou DeLoutre (4,913 acres) in Union Parish. The land could become part of LDWF’s WMA system as early as the spring of 2016.

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 7.24.52 PM“We’re excited about the possibility of adding these critical expanses to our WMAs’ roster,’’ LDWF Secretary Robert Barham said. “One of our top goals is to continue to ensure viable wildlife resources are sustained in all areas of the state. Creating WMAs at Chemin-A-Haut and Bayou DeLoutre would be a major step in that direction.

“Another positive is that we’ll be increasing the opportunities for Louisiana residents to enjoy all that our WMAs have to offer.’’

LDWF manages 1.6 million acres on 55 WMAs throughout Louisiana. The agency’s goal is to provide access to WMA landscapes for outdoor recreational opportunities as well as provide the necessary habitats to support both game and non-game wildlife species.

The benefits of acquiring and transforming Chemin-A-Haut and Bayou DeLoutre properties into WMAs are many, including increasing water quality in the Ouachita River Watershed, which serves approximately 180,000 people.

Bayou DeLoutre is a designated Louisiana Natural and Scenic River.

The Chemin-A-Haut tract is part of the Bayou Bartholomew drainage, which also is a designated Louisiana Natural and Scenic River. This bayou is 359 miles in length, making it the world’s longest. It is also one of America’s most diverse waterways, containing over 115 species of fish. Bayou Bartholomew has the highest fish and mussel diversity in the state and contains several federally endangered mussels, including the rabbitsfoot and the pink mucket.

The Louisiana Natural Heritage Program tracks four species of fish and 12 species of mussels in this watershed and considers this area a high priority for conservation.

These properties are located in critical habitat for the federally threatened Louisiana black bear and serve as denning and foraging areas for this species.  Other species that utilize these areas include songbirds, eagles, and many species of bats.

The Molpus Woodlands Group, LLC, headquartered in Jackson, Miss., manages 1.875 million acres of timberland investments in 17 states and is one of the oldest timber-related companies in the nation. The company focuses on ensuring long-term optimal cash returns on investments while practicing responsible forest stewardship. For more information, visit www.molpus.com.

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