|March 23, 2010
For Immediate Release
ABITA SPRINGS, LOUISIANA – The Nature Conservancy of Louisiana and Ecosystem Investment Partnersannounced today the permanent protection and restoration of 2,263 acres of wet longleaf pine savanna and associated habitats, which comprise one of the country’s most threatened ecosystems. Less than 5% of the original savanna habitat remains in Louisiana today, having once dominated the Gulf Coastal Plain and covered more than 2 million acres in Louisiana alone.
“This property is one of the largest restorable wet longleaf pine savannas in the region,” said Latimore Smith, Director of Science and Stewardship for Louisiana office of The Nature Conservancy. “It represents a rare chance to turn back the ecological clock, to restore something to its natural state for the benefit of people and wildlife.”
Now, thanks to a unique partnership between a private investment fund and a conservation group, this property will stay forever wild. Ecosystem Investment Partners (EIP) purchased the site in 2008 and is today granting to the Nature Conservancy a conservation servitude that, among other things, will permanently extinguish the development rights associated with critical habitat land. The property, located east of Abita Springs in St. Tammany Parish in an area known as Mossy Hill, was previously planted with loblolly and slash pine for timber harvest. EIP has contracted with TNC to initiate a massive restoration effort that is expected to bring the land back to its rich native wet forest state that could support more than 20 rare, threatened, or endangered species including Henslow’s sparrow, mud salamander, parrot pitcher plant, pine woods lily, and bog flame flower.
This restoration work will be extensive. Over the next 10 years, the groups anticipate cooperating to remove non-native or out-of-place vegetation, smooth out the mounded earthen rows where plantation trees were once grown, plug up drainage ditches to restore the land back to its naturally wet condition, plant thousands of individual longleaf pine seedlings, and implement a prescribed fire regimen. The restoration and long-term management are being funded though the establishment of a 2,263-acre wetland mitigation bank, the Mossy Hill Mitigation Bank (www.mossyhillbank.com), which was approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on March 5th, 2010. The mitigation bank will provide offsets to help compensate for unavoidable impacts to wet pine habitat from commercial, residential, and infrastructure development in St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and Washington Parishes.
“The Talisheek Pine Wetlands project is a prime example of how business and conservationists can partner to achieve significant environmental outcomes,” said Nick Dilks, a Partner in Ecosystem Investment Partners. “We are very pleased to work with our longtime partner, The Nature Conservancy, to help ensure that when impacts to natural resources are unavoidable, we can offset those impacts with restoration work of the highest caliber that’s based on expert science.” The Nature Conservancy is considered one of the leaders in pine flatwood wetland restoration and has successfully operated its own preserve complex and pine wetland mitigation bank in St. Tammany Parish since 1991.
The two groups have also partnered to protect and restore a 1,000-acre in-holding in the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in southern Virginia. That property is also a wetland mitigation bank.
The 2,263 acres protected today will become part of one of the largest complexes of restored pine savanna wetlands in Louisiana. Since 1998, The Nature Conservancy of Louisiana has been adding acreage to its core of protected lands in the Talisheek area, and today’s victory brings that total up to 6,548 acres. The Conservancy approached EIP in 2007 to discuss how the groups could partner to restore and protect additional land to continue expanding this unique Preserve complex. “We’re thrilled to partner with EIP to protect and restore one of the last intact properties in the Greater New Orleans area,” said Keith Ouchley, the Conservancy’s state director in Louisiana. “By partnering with like-minded private investors, the Conservancy is able to leverage our limited resources to achieve tangible conservation at a scale necessary to ensure long-term viability of these fragile ecosystems.”
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. To date, the Conservancy and its more than one million members have been responsible for the protection of more than 18 million acres in the United States and have helped preserve more than 117 million acres in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
Ecosystem Investment Partners (EIP) was founded in 2006 to provide a private funding option for important conservation properties, and to demonstrate that good conservation investment can deliver market returns to serious investors. EIP delivers competitive returns to its investors through the use of new, market-based mechanisms that reward landowners for the restoration and protection of their natural resources (such as wetlands, streams, and endangered species habitat), as well as the sustainable use of more traditional resources (such as forestry and agriculture). Visit EIP on the Web atwww.ecosystempartners.com.