The rivers of Louisiana are intricately connected to our unique and valuable wetland forests. You may recognize some of these iconic southern riverine landscapes, such as cypress-tupelo dominated swamps.
Wetland forests provide effective shelter from floods and storms, a filter for safe clean water, and are an integral part of the Gulf’s cultural and natural heritage. Streams cooled by these non-coastal forests provide productive habitats for a variety of fish and wildlife species, including those that are not found anywhere else on the planet, like the inflated heelsplitter mussel and the broadstripe topminnow.
Decades of unregulated sand and gravel mining has degraded Louisiana's iconic rivers and the surrounding wetland forests. In the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, residential development has rapidly increased in these river basins. As a result, large swaths of important bottomland hardwood forests along the Amite and Tangipahoa Rivers have been destroyed, reducing important habits, degrading water quality and increasing flooding of local parishes. The impacts became clear during the floods of 2016, when thousands of people were faced with the real impacts of the loss of floodplains along the Amite and Tangipahoa.
Fortunately, we at GRN have identified a way to reverse the trend of disappearing wetland forests: by restoring sand and gravel mines along these rivers. In our research, we have identified over 8000 acres of abandoned mines along the scenic portions of the Amite river that can be restored. As part of the Scenic Rivers Act, the state is already committed to restoration of these areas, making it a double win. The magnitude of potential impact is great, as there are thousands of acres of abandoned mining sites on rivers suitable for restoration across the state.
Time is of the essence. As they sit, these sites are a liability for the people of Louisiana – like an open wound. During flooding events, sediment from these sites is carried into the river, increasing costs to local drainage districts.
All of this is why we are working to protect remaining wetland forests along these rivers and pressure state and parish officials to restore some of the forests that have been destroyed. We are also engaging the public to help communities capitalize on this opportunity. We welcome you to be a part of this positive effort to protect our wetland forests, and by extension ourselves.