Date: Saturday, April 9, 2022
NEW ORLEANS — Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland was in New Orleans, Louisiana today to commemorate an historic expansion of Bayou Sauvage Urban National Wildlife Refuge and highlighted the Biden-Harris administration’s ongoing efforts to conserve, protect, and restore our nation’s lands and waters.
At an event with elected officials, community leaders, and Interior Department employees, Secretary Haaland celebrated news that the Refuge has acquired the Little Pine Island tract, a 2,500-acre addition of tidal marshes and hardwood forests to Bayou Sauvage, which is one of the last remaining marsh areas adjacent to Lakes Pontchartrain and Borgne.
“The expansion of Bayou Sauvage reflects several of our most important conservation goals, including protecting unique habitats, expanding equitable access to nature, and stimulating local economies,” said Secretary Haaland. “Today's celebration underscores the importance of the America the Beautiful initiative, which recognizes that urban green spaces are integral to our efforts to ensure that everyone, no matter their zip code, can develop a meaningful relationship with the outdoors.”
Bayou Sauvage, at nearly 30,000 acres, is the nation’s second largest urban refuge and is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It lies protected mostly within the levees of eastern New Orleans and has long been a favorite of birders, fishers, hunters, crabbers, hikers, bikers, and kayakers. An abundance of wildlife – more than 340 species of birds, including bald eagles, as well as Gulf sturgeon, American alligators, and the occasional west Indian manatee – call the refuge home.
The newly acquired Little Pine Island tract was funded by the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Since its inception in 1965, the LWCF has funded $4 billion worth of projects in every county in the country. At no cost to taxpayers, the LWCF supports increased public access to and protection for federal public lands and waters – including national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and recreation areas – and provides matching grants to state and tribal governments for the acquisition and development of public parks and other outdoor recreation sites.
“Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge brings nature to the doorstep of all New Orleanians while preserving critical habitats where people and wildlife can thrive,” said Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System Cynthia Martinez. “This acquisition not only affords educational opportunities for children and adults to learn about the importance of conserving and protecting Louisiana’s endangered coastline, but it also helps further protect our threatened and endangered species and serves as a barrier against rising tides, hurricanes and climate change.”
More than 80 percent of Americans live in and around cities. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Urban Wildlife Conservation Program works to connect city and suburban residents to nature in their communities. The National Wildlife Refuge System is a network of 568 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts that offer access to a host of popular activities while providing vital habitat for thousands of wildlife species. More than 61 million people visit refuges each year and they contribute $3.2 billion per year into local economies and support more than 41,000 jobs, according to the Service’s report Banking on Nature.