Healthy forests mean healthy bears
The combined efforts of four conservation organizations –Mississippi River Trust, Lower Mississippi River Conservation Committee, Mississippi Land Trust, and Bear Trust International — have resulted in the permanent protection of nearly 53,000 acres of batture forest to date. The active floodplain of the Lower Mississippi River, often called the “batture”, covers 2 million acres from Cairo, Illinois to Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Some tracts were already forested, and owners placed conservation easements on the land through the Mississippi River Trust or the Mississippi Land Trust: others were previously cleared, and the land was replanted in native hardwoods and enrolled in Wetland Reserve Easements through the Natural Resources Conservation Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In addition to providing habitat for bears, other wildlife will reap benefits, too. The batture’s large, connected tracts of forest are havens for migratory birds such as the prothonotary warbler, summer tanager, Baltimore oriole and many others. Great egrets, wood storks and roseate spoonbills and other wading birds thrive there, too. Mallards, northern pintail, northern shoveler, and other ducks spend the winter in the batture’s flooded woods and wetlands. Nearly all of the batture is privately owned, and its abundant fish and wildlife, including largemouth bass and white-tailed deer, make the region an outdoor recreation paradise.
Batture fuels Mississippi River’s productivity and protects its water quality
The batture plays other important roles. Its seasonally flooded wetlands, oxbow lakes and old river channels provide a rich food supply in the form of plankton, insects, and other invertebrates, decaying organic matter, and aquatic plants. It provides spawning and nursery areas for many of the 100+ species of freshwater fish found in the Lower Mississippi River. In addition, the batture is a filter that absorbs excess nutrients in the river — from upriver farms and urban sources — that would otherwise contribute to the seasonal Gulf of Mexico dead zone.