Insights > The Cajun Prairie: Protecting Habitat in Southwest Louisiana
The Cajun Prairie: Protecting Habitat in Southwest Louisiana
Entergy Louisiana is helping protect one of the last pieces of coastal prairie land that once stretched across two million acres of Louisiana.
A portion of the Cajun Prairie, named as a tribute to the exiled Acadian settlers who called it home in the early 19th century, was discovered by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries in the summer of 2017 in an Entergy Louisiana right-of-way near Sulphur. It is one of the few remnant coastal prairie sites in the state.
This habitat had nearly vanished, mostly due to land conversion for agriculture and development, and experts estimate less than one percent (approximately 6,500 acres) of the grassland habitat remains among isolated parcels. Coastal prairie has been identified as a priority habitat, and the LDWF is working to locate additional prairie remnants in southwest Louisiana.
Entergy Louisiana works with a number of conservation organizations to help manage the coastal prairie. Some techniques used to maintain the prairies that occur within the company’s right-of way include vegetation management and selective herbicide use in order to preserve what exists and to assist in restoration efforts.
“Louisiana’s coastal prairie was a vast treeless landscape with an abundance of grasses and wildflowers reaching heights of six to nine feet tall,” said Brian Sean Early of the LDWF. “The coastal prairies once possibly supported as many as 600 to 700 species of grasses and wildflowers, as well as bison, red wolves, whooping cranes, prairie chickens, northern bobwhite, diverse waterfowl, an array of pollinators and other wildlife.”
Despite the limited remaining acreage, Louisiana’s prairies still serve as refuge for rare, threatened, and endangered birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, plants and many others. The coastal prairie also serves as habitat for several at-risk pollinators such as bees, beetles, butterflies and other insects.
The Entergy Louisiana coastal prairie supports more than 100 colorful, native plant species and is one of the few remaining locations where marshhay cordgrass is found on dry sites and outside the coastal wetlands. Coastal prairie wildflowers are a diverse group with many species belonging to the sunflower, legume and mint families and bloom in a range of colors including green, white, yellow, blue, pink, purple and red. “Losing the coastal prairie would cause our state to lose beauty and natural diversity,” said Early. “Each coastal prairie remnant, no matter how small, provides sources of local seeds for restoration projects and serves as a model for coastal prairie restoration outcomes.”
Coastal prairie remnants not only provide habitat for wildlife, they also sequester carbon and store water to offset flooding. “Without the many small prairie remnants like that of Entergy Louisiana, properly restoring and reestablishing much-needed habitat across south Louisiana would be difficult to nearly impossible,” Early said.