Louisiana Wildlife Action Plan

By the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies

Louisiana‘s Wildlife Action Plan provides a common strategic framework and information resource to help conserve Louisiana‘s terrestrial and aquatic wildlife and the lands and waters on which they depend for survival.

The action plan is primarily a habitat-based approach to conserving rare and declining wildlife species. It focuses on habitats such as open-water marine environments, riverine systems, and 38 terrestrial habitats, including agricultural-crop-grasslands. Conservation actions were developed with a variety of partners for these landscape features on a regional basis.

The action plan also looks at the conservation needs of 240 rare or declining wildlife species and identifies conservation priorities for implementation. By combining habitat and wildlife-specific approaches, and considering multiple scales, Louisiana’s action plan will help to guide the conservation of the state’s wildlife diversity until 2015.

Management

More than 10% of Louisiana is in Federal- and state-managed areas. Some half-million acres of private lands, most of which have been reforested, have been enrolled in Federal conservation programs to benefit wildlife.

Wildlife Highlights

Louisiana has 30% of the coastal wetlands found in the contiguous 48 states. The Atchafalaya River basin swamp is the largest in the nation. The largest wading bird colony in North America can be found at Miller’s Lake, which housed some 52,000 nesting pairs of egrets, herons, night herons and other bird species in 2004. More than 900 vertebrate species have been recorded in the state.

Primary Challenges to Conserving Wildlife in Louisiana

Eighteen threats to wildlife were identified in Louisiana. Four of these were commonly identified as primary factors in affecting terrestrial habitats throughout the state: habitat destruction or conversion, habitat fragmentation, habitat disturbance, and altered composition and structure of the habitat. In aquatic systems, the following five threats appeared repeatedly across basins: modification of water levels or changes in natural hydrologic patterns, sedimentation, habitat disturbance, nutrient loading, and altered composition and structure. Along the coast, the primary threat has been coastal erosion and subsequent changes in hydrologic patterns.

For terrestrial forested habitat areas in Louisiana, the longleaf pine system was ranked as a habitat of immediate priority due to its extensive historical and recent decline, and because more than 32 species of conservation concern are found in that habitat type. Lack of data in aquatic systems, both freshwater and marine, highlighted the need to do more inventory and research in these systems.

Regardless of the ecological system (terrestrial or aquatic), improving dialogue with existing partners and developing new partners remains the biggest challenge to implementing the plan.

Working Together for Louisiana’s Wildlife

Committees of professional biologists within the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries, other state and Federal agencies, and universities, as well as from non-governmental organizations and the public at large, developed the list of species of conservation concern for this plan. The biologists met at multiple venues to analyze the threats to habitats in each of six ecoregions across the state.

Subsequently, conservation actions or strategies were developed in a series of seven focus group meetings across the state with invited representatives of conservation organizations, forestry, wildlife and fisheries associations, industry, Federal and state agencies, universities, and private citizens. The outcome of each meeting was posted on the Department’s website to inform the public on how the plan was progressing and to solicit comments. Each iteration of the plan was posted on the website, and comments were solicited.

 

The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies represents all of North America’s fish and wildlife agencies, promotes sound management and conservation, and speaks with a unified voice on important fish and wildlife issues.

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