The Nature Conservancy
of Louisiana
Cat Island - Feb. 16, 2000
Keith Ouchley and Cat Island Residents
Cameras at Cat Island
Photo Essay

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PJ President Bert Babers
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Acting Deputy Secretary of Interior
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St. Francisville, Louisiana - Acting Deputy Secretary of the Interior David J. Hayes announced today along with Senators Landrieu and Breaux that the Department is undertaking a new regional initiative that includes land purchases and other resource investments in Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley. The President's budget will include at least $5 million in funding for the National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) system in Louisiana.

"Louisiana and the greater Lower Mississippi Valley is a priority for the department of the Interior. Preserving natural resources in the entire region is critical to the quality of life here", said Deputy Secretary of the Interior David J. Hayes. "The Department's 2001 budget targets key land acquisition in Louisiana, as well as funding for natural areas management, restoration, historic preservation, education and recreation throughout the region," he said.

Approximately $4 million for the proposed Cat Island NWR in West Feliciana Parish and $1 million for Mandalay NWR in Terrebone Parish are currently part of the President's request to Congress. Senator Breaux and Senator Landrieu and Congressman Baker have endorsed the project and have been leading the effort to protect this incredible Louisiana treasure.

"Cat Island and Mandalay National Wildlife Refuge are both treasures of nature for Louisiana and the nation," said Senator Breaux. "I commend the Department of the Interior and The Nature Conservancy of Louisiana on working together to recognize the significance of this old growth cypress tupelo forest and the need to preserve it as one of America's national treasures." The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages the national system of federal refuges. Cat Island is the best remaining old-growth cypress tupelo forest in the Mississippi River Valley, and is home to the world's largest bald cypress tree - 53 feet in circumference.

"Cat Island is a national treasure and this action will ensure that it is protected for the enjoyment of future generations," Sen. Landrieu said. " I commend the president for recognizing the importance both Cat Island and Mandalay holds not only to Louisiana but to the entire country. I also applaud the work of The Nature Conservancy of Louisiana, which has helped to preserve many sites in Louisiana. This partnership with The Nature Conservancy works and I hope to see it develop further." If approved by Congress, the funds will be used toward acquisition for the 9,500-acre tract that is central to the Cat Island project.

U.S. Rep. Richard Baker, R-Baton Rouge, made the following statement in regard to today's event concerning Cat Island: "While today's event is a nice gesture, I hope it will not overshadow the future hard work that will be required to finally ink the deal. Cat Island is not only a Louisiana treasure but also a national treasure, and one that we must preserve for future generations of Americans. And with the assistance of the administration and Senators Breaux and Landrieu I am obviously more hopeful of gaining support for the full amount needed to make this project a reality."

The Conservancy has been working on the Cat Island project with numerous partners, including The Timber Company, a separate operation group of Georgia-Pacific Corporation. "As a major landowner in this area, The Timber Company has been committed to managing its timberlands sustainable and in ways that are compatible with wildlife habitat," said Donald L. Glass, president and chief executive officer. "We are pleased to be part of this public-private effort to help ensure that special places like Cat Island are protected for future generations." Other landowners and user groups in the area which include the West Feliciana Police Jury, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the state administration, also helped to conserve this unique natural.

The Natural Conservancy of Louisiana (TNC) was extremely excited to hear the news of the administration's support for projects in the state. Lisa Creasman, state director, said, "Cat Island is a gem worthy of our best effort to conserve it. We commend the President on demonstrating his commitment to Louisiana's natural areas."

The Nature Conservancy of Louisiana is part of an international, non-profit land conservation organization that accomplishes its work by forming partnerships with corporations, foundations, individuals and federal and state agencies who share concern for Louisiana's natural resources. For over thirteen years, The Nature Conservancy and their partners have conserved over 200,000 acres of the best of Louisiana.

 

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