RESTORING LOWER MISSISSIPPI RIVER BOTTOMLAND HARDWOOD FORESTS

The Natural Resources Conservation Service, working with the Mississippi River Trust and Lower Mississippi River Conservation Committee through the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP) program, is offering reforestation incentives to private landowners in the largest U.S. river floodplain. The project focuses on securing Wetland Reserve Easements on cleared or open land that floods frequently in six states along the Lower Mississippi River. The project area is known as the “batture” and covers 2 million acres from Cairo, Illinois, to the Port of Baton Rouge in Louisiana. Most of the batture can flood for weeks or months at a time every year, often during the growing season. Since the project began in 2012, NRCS and its partners have closed Wetland Reserve Easements on 15,237 acres in the project area, with another 6,970 acres pending closure, for a total of 22,207 acres. All land with closed easements is being replanted with bottomland hardwood seedlings.

Reforestation of these batture lands will lessen the amount of excess nutrients entering the river and the Gulf of Mexico; reduce flooding of farmland; save taxpayer dollars in the form of avoided commodity, disaster assistance, and crop insurance payments; increase carbon sequestration; expand habitat for black bears, migratory birds, white-tailed deer, and other wildlife; help protect levees and navigation infrastructure; and increase opportunities for outdoor recreation.

Matching funds for the project are provided by the Walton Family Foundation, the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, International Paper Company, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

PROJECT AREA

The project area is the active floodplain of the Lower Mississippi River from the river’s confluence with the Ohio River at Cairo, Illinois (River Mile 954) downstream to the Port of Baton Rouge (River Mile 255). The active floodplain in this 699-mile reach covers 2 million acres of land and water between the federal mainline levees or river bluffs. This area is commonly called the “batture.” The project area includes portions of 35 counties and parishes bordering the Mississippi River in Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.

PROJECT PARTNERS

The Lower Mississippi River Conservation Committee, a nonprofit coalition of 12 natural resource conservation and environmental quality agencies representing the states of Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee. The organization provides the only permanent, regional forum dedicated to conserving the natural resources within the lower river’s active floodplain.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, provides technical assistance, financial incentives, and conservation planning for farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners wanting to make conservation improvements to their land.