Mar 6, 2014 21:33 Waterfowl habitat improvement completed Friday at Sherburne Waterfowl habitat improvement completed Friday at Sherburne Advocate staff photo by BRAD BOWIE -- An area of the South Farm Unit is seen following Friday morning's land dedication in the Sherburne Wildlife Management Area. The property has recently been opened to the public in thanks to a partnership between Ducks Unlimited and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Richard Burgess| firstname.lastname@example.org March 06, 2014 Comments RAMAH — A prime spot for south Louisiana ducks just got a bit better. Ducks Unlimited and the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries on Friday marked the completion of a $440,000 project to improve waterfowl habitat in parts of the Sherburne Wildlife Management Area, a 44,000-acre tract of forests and wetlands in the Atchafalaya Basin between Lafayette and Baton Rouge. The area is popular for fishing, bird watching, camping and hunting, attracting as many 50,000 visitors a year, said Tony Vidrine, who helps oversee the area for Wildlife and Fisheries. The biggest draw is waterfowl hunting, and portions of Sherburne are sectioned off in small levees that allow the controlled water levels to create the shallow water habitat the birds prefer. The habitat project, supported in part by fees from Ducks Unlimited speciality license plates, aims to make that control easier with a new well, a massive water pump and a series of irrigation pipes. “We are able to put water back on precisely when we need it,” said Bob Dew, with Ducks Unlimited. “... It’s a much more efficient way to manage the units.” Before the pumps, wildlife officials depended on rainfall to keep water levels up. “And if we didn’t get enough rain, we were in trouble,” Vidrine said. Vidrine said the project, which impacts about 350 acres, will also allow for expanded public access to Sherburne’s waterfowl area, where hunters compete in a lottery for a select number of spots. “We turn away more than we hunt,” Vidrine said. He said Saturday hunts are determined by an advance lottery, but hunters show up before daybreak on Tuesday and Thursday to see if they can win an on-site, predawn lottery at the entrance. “Public opportunity for recreational waterfowl hunting is a precious thing in Louisiana,” Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Robert Barham told a crowd at a dedication ceremony for the project on Friday. “The demand always exceeds the opportunity. This will help address that.” The project was dedicated to John W. Barton Sr., a Baton Rouge businessman who was an active outdoorsman, noted philanthropist and conservationist. He died in 2012. The Sherburne is managed by Wildlife and Fisheries and includes land owned by Wildlife and Fisheries, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The management area spreads out over portions of Pointe Coupee Parish, St. Martin Parish and Iberville Parish. The project dedicated on Monday is the South Farm area of Sherburne in Iberville Parish just north of Interstate 10.