While there are some people who cannot spend enough time outdoors, enjoying all of nature’s gifts, there are others who need a little more motivation to get outside and seek the beauty of our outdoors. What better time for either party to embrace the outdoor spirit of America than in the month of June, Great Outdoors Month. The month kicks off with a Presidential Proclamation, which advocates for all Americans to visit the great outdoors and to protect our nation’s legacy by conserving our lands for future generations. The Proclamation discusses the numerous possibilities for Americans to explore, play, and grow together through outdoor activities. Any activities from hiking to canoeing to wildlife watching, hunting, or fishing can involve kids by being healthy, active, and energized.
More and more Americans are seeking healthy and fun outlets as ways to stay active. The outdoor recreation community is situated in an exemplary position to help people lead a healthier lifestyle by welcoming them and providing guidance on how to take advantage of the great outdoors. Wetlands provide recreational opportunities such as fishing, canoeing, hiking, bird watching, and waterfowl hunting, just to name a few. One of the largest and most avid groups of people using wetlands is waterfowl hunters. There are an estimated 3 million migratory bird hunters in the United States. This year, new studies by the recreation community will record data on the key role outdoor recreation plays in local, state, and national economies. Outdoor recreation is an economic powerhouse in our country generating nearly $887 billion in consumer spending each year and creating 7.6 million jobs. Great Outdoors Month is designed to highlight the benefits of getting involved with our great outdoors and enjoying natural resources, such as forests, parks, refuges, and other public land and waters.
Known to be one of the most easily recognizable species of waterfowl, the mallard duck is majestic, distinctive, and a wintering resident of the bayou state. The mallard is one of the most common ducks in the United States. With great variation between the two mallard genders, drake or male mallards have a bright yellow bill, prominent emerald green head, and white neck-ring, followed by a chestnut colored chest and dark colored rear. The hen or female mallards have a dark colored bill and are a mottled brown color with a dark brown stripe across the eye. Both drake and hen mallards have the characteristic violet-blue speculum with black and white borders. Mallard ducks are a migrating waterfowl species that can be found in Louisiana during winter. Among the dabbling ducks, mallards are one of the latest fall migrants with one of the most extended migration periods, lasting from late summer to early winter. During their migrant stay, mallards are found in agricultural fields, shallow marshes, oak-dominated forested wetlands, and coastal inlets with aquatic vegetation. Louisiana sits in the Mississippi Flyway, North America’s greatest and most heavily-used migration corridor. Louisiana’s coastal wetlands provide habitat for more than 5 million migratory waterfowl, approximately half of the wintering duck population of the Mississippi Flyway. Now, more than ever, restoration and protection of coastal wetlands is critical; if wetlands continue to diminish, Louisiana will no longer be known as “sportsman’s paradise”.
On October 15, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hosted the 19th Annual Wild Things Festival at the Southeast Louisiana Refuge Headquarters in Lacombe, La. This exciting family-friendly event gives the community an opportunity to engage in outdoor activities while celebrating National Wildlife Refuge Week. This free public event included canoe and pontoon boat tours, hayrides, live animals, wildflower walks, kids activities, bird house building, live music, and a youth wildlife art competition.
The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act Public Outreach staff was among the 40 exhibitors providing hands-on activities to encourage knowledge of the Louisiana outdoors. In order to accurately portray the importance of aquatic, coastal regions, the CWPPRA staff utilized an ocean character, Sid the Restoration Squid, whose six unique legs each represented a different restoration method. The six restoration methods include barrier island restorations, marsh creations, shoreline protection, hydrologic restoration, freshwater and sediment diversions, and terracing. Each leg consisted of a distinct craft material that would correspond with a restoration method, in which children would assemble and personalize their own squid. Each child’s personal squid was accompanied by an explanation guide of CWPPRA’s efforts to restore, protect, and/or create Louisiana’s wetlands.
In honor of summer officially beginning this week, this Wetland Wednesday focuses on:
Recreation in the Wetlands
One of the many valuable qualities offered by wetlands is recreation. Ecosystems are highly biologically diversified, providing an abundance of species to view or catch. Boating, fishing, bird-watching, photography, or simply enjoying the landscape are all activities which attract greater use of wetlands during summer months. Known as the “Sportsman’s Paradise,” Louisiana wetlands draw a large number of tourists and natives, increasing the ecotourism of the state. The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act encourages the public to be opportunistic in using wetlands as a beneficial natural resource while also recognizing their importance and need for protection. While recreationally using wetlands, remember to respect the home of wildlife, including many endangered species.