Swamp’s boundaries grow by 10%

The Maurepas Swamp Wildlife Management Area just grew by more than 10 percent with the addition of 11,145 acres of wildlife habitat as part of the settlement of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, officials announced Monday.

MOEX Offshore 2007 LLC funded the purchase as part of a $20 million consent decree settling penalties under state and federal law, according to the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.

The management area’s latest addition east of Killian includes a portion of the Natalbany and Tickfaw rivers and the Tickfaw’s confluence with the northern side of Lake Maurepas.

The land and water support eagles, osprey, bobcats, alligators, wood ducks, wintering waterfowl, deer and numerous other species of animals and birds, said Christian Winslow, the area’s supervising biologist for the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

In addition to the cypress and tupelos, there is an underlying layer of maple and ash and ridges that support oaks, he said.

The acquisition gives the department the ability to protect those trees, Winslow said.

The rivers help to provide public access to the management area, where regulated hunting and fishing will be allowed, he said.

Maurepas Swamp is a “unique ecosystem” of cypress and tupelo gum bottom lands that is worthy of protection, said Kell McInnis, executive director of the Wildlife & Fisheries Foundation.

“It has been a tremendous source for wildlife over the years,” he said.

In addition to its importance as wildlife habitat, the land is also valuable as a buffer for hurricane protection, he said.

McInnis said he hopes to see another large piece of land added to the management area this year.

With the latest addition, the management area totals almost 115,000 acres that nearly surround Lake Maurepas.

Last year, a 29,630-acre tract on the eastern side of the was added to the wildlife management area.

Together with the nearby Joyce and Manchac Wildlife Management areas about 150,000 acres in the Pontchartrain-Maurepas Basin are now under the protection of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Winslow said.

The acquisition provides acreage for Louisianans to enjoy and a natural defense against storm surge, Garret Graves, the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority’s chairman, said in a press release.

It’s also another step in closure of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, he said.

The MOEX consent decree required the company to implement $20 million in supplement environmental projects in the Gulf Coast states including $6.75 million used for the project in Louisiana, according to CPRA.

As part of settling enforcement actions, supplemental environmental projects are ones done in addition to those required to remediate damages.

“The state’s coastal wetlands and forests, like those found around Lake Maurepas, are of utmost importance to the ecosystems they support and these vital resources must be protected for generations to come,” Robert Barham, secretary of Wildlife and Fisheries said in a press release. “Our citizens, and visitors to the state, also now have an even greater expanse of public land available for outdoor recreation within easy driving distance of two major metropolitan areas.”