BATON ROUGE, La. – The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) is partnering with four other agencies to transplant prairie grasses along the west side of U.S. 165 south of Fenton today and Saturday in an effort to save some of the state’s vanishing coastal prairie.
Volunteers from DOTD, the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Allen Correctional, the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service and the U.S. Geological Survey will remove prairie grasses from what is state right-of-way for the TIMED project to four-lane U.S. 165. Working along with them will be volunteers from local environmental groups, the Nature Conservancy, AmeriCorps and Eunice High School.
Roy Dupuy, DOTD landscape architect, said volunteers are working to remove the plants from the right-of-way today and will replant them Saturday at the Duralde Prairie on Parish Road 6-29S. McNeese State University also will receive some of the plants for its prairie re-seeding project.
Prairies are among four major habitats of major concern in Louisiana (the others being coastal marsh, bottomland hardwoods, and longleaf pine and associated savannahs). The majority of Louisiana’s native prairies have been lost. The prairie habitat supports the most diverse wildlife species of the four major habitats, including insects, grasses and wildflowers.
At one time, coastal prairie extended from Corpus Christi, Texas, to Lafayette in southwest Louisiana, covering an estimated 2.5 million acres in Louisiana alone.
“From those millions of acres of coastal prairie, we’re down to less than 100 acres of upland prairie and less than 500 acres of ‘wet’ prairie now in Louisiana,” said Dupuy. “Since the best way to preserve the habitat is through re-seeding, we applaud McNeese’s efforts in this area.”
One of 16 TIMED (Transportation Infrastructure Model for Economic Development) projects, the 173-mile, $867 million U.S. 165 project is divided into 30 segments, each of which involves widening the road to four lanes. The segment that includes the prairie grass transplanting under way is the section from I-10 to Fenton. Bids will be let on this section in late 2006.