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The Nature Conservancy Launches Atchafalaya River Basin Initiative

     Published: 07.02.15

Baton Rouge, LA – The Nature Conservancy today announced the acquisition of 5,359 acres in the Bayou Sorrel region of the Atchafalaya River Basin, marking the first step in a long-term vision to conserve and restore America’s great swamp forest.

Working closely with partners, including Shell Oil and A. Wilbert’s Sons LLC of Plaquemine, The Nature Conservancy’s goal is to preserve and manage the land to benefit the people, forests, wildlife, and waters of the Atchafalaya River Basin. The acquisition will be called the Atchafalaya Basin Preserve.

“We’re humbled by the opportunity to deepen our roots in this incredible area,” said Keith Ouchley, director of The Nature Conservancy in Louisiana. “We’re committed to conserving and restoring this land for the long-term. We have the ability to help the Atchafalaya River Basin thrive for generations to come, ensuring that people of the region and beyond have an opportunity to continue enjoying the many fish and wildlife resources and benefits the Basin provides.”

The Nature Conservancy’s Atchafalaya River Basin Initiative seeks to conserve and restore this region through land stewardship and science-based restoration activities, and will encourage participation and support from public and private stakeholders as the Initiative is developed and implemented. Shell’s $1.6 million contribution helped fund several key components of the initiative, including this land acquisition, helping to make the Atchafalaya Basin Preserve a reality.

“We are proud to be part of this conservation victory for the Atchafalaya River Basin,” said Greg Smith, general manager of Shell Pipeline Company LP. “It is one of the most important wetland systems in the world and forms the heart of Cajun culture in Louisiana. Shell has a strong and growing presence in Louisiana and our investment in this initiative is part of Shell’s overall approach to maintain environmental and community sustainability where we work.”

The Atchafalaya Basin Preserve is comprised of land that was owned by A. Wilbert’s Sons for over 125 years.

“We feel this transaction will support our overall effort to improve habitats and recognize the importance of private land stewardship. We’re happy to be a partner with The Nature Conservancy in this effort,” said Klein Kirby, Chairman of A. Wilbert’s Sons.

“This day has been a long time in coming and we thank A. Wilbert’s Sons, Klein Kirby, and Vic Blanchard for their support. We are very grateful to Shell for their support of our efforts and long term vision for this initiative,” said Ouchley.

That long-term vision includes a public-private partnership with the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources and their Atchafalaya Basin Program. The Conservancy plans to install restoration features on acquired tracts to improve water flow through the forest that will in turn improve fishing, bird habitat, and forests for people and nature.

Critical to the project’s success is the support of the state.

“The Nature Conservancy has been a vital partner for us over the years and their efforts in bringing diverse stakeholders together to improve the state of the Atchafalaya River Basin is much appreciated,” said Steve Chustz, Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources. “We look forward to a brighter future for the Atchafalaya and all future generations of Louisianans that enjoy its beauty and bounty.”

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