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 October 3rd, World Habitat Day, this Wetland Wednesday will discuss wetlands as a habitat!
Louisiana wetlands are essential in providing habitats for wildlife. For some wildlife, the only fitting habitat that adequately provides all needs and resources to survive are wetlands. Different types of wildlife rely upon different types of wetland habitats such as swamp, freshwater marsh, intermediate marsh, brackish marsh and salt marsh. The Great Egret and Great Blue Heron can be found in freshwater marshes along with wood ducks, while Brown Pelicans, the state bird of Louisiana, are most frequently found in intermediate marshes. Seasonal migration pathways also rely heavily upon the sustainability of wetland habitats. Louisiana’s coast provides a critical habitat and resting point for waterfowl in route along the Mississippi Flyway during migration; about 40% of all North American migrating waterfowl and shorebirds use this route. The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act continues to work to enhance, restore, and protect these imperative habitats for the nation’s wildlife!
Did you know:
Freshwater habitats make up only 1% of the planet’s surface but are host to 1/3 of all known vertebrates and nearly 10% of all known animal species.
Usually located in close proximity to an intermediate marsh, freshwater marshes commonly occur adjacent to coastal bays. Freshwater marshes are of the most productive freshwater habitats and are essential to the survival of many wildlife populations ranging from important nursery needs to supporting large numbers of wintering waterfowl. Freshwater marshes have the greatest plant diversity and highest organic matter content of any marsh type. The heavy demand for freshwater has become outweighed by its availability due to salt water intrusion. The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act aims to restore the natural conditions of water quality by implementing hydrologic restoration projects to combat saltwater intrusion.