MONROE, La. (AP) — Hunters, birdwatchers and hikers in northeastern Louisiana have more public places to roam after a nearly 3,000-acre expansion of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries' Ouachita Wildlife Management Area.

State officials have reached a lease agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to add the 2,954-acre tract to the Ouachita Wildlife Management Area's southern border.

Wildlife Secretary Robert Barham tells The News-Star the tract was formerly used for agriculture, but the corps acquired it as part of a wetlands mitigation project and replanted the land in indigenous hardwoods.

"Eventually this will be a hardwood forest," said 42-year LDWF wildlife biologist Jerald Owens, who along with his colleague Charlie Booth, who has 40 years of service, will help manage the new tract.

The entire wildlife management area lies within the Bayou LaFourche floodplain. Game species available for hunting when in season include deer, squirrel, rabbit, snipe, dove and waterfowl.

"It's perfect for rabbit and deer hunting now, and as the trees grow a lot of folks will just enjoy walking the property," Owens said.

Owens said the Ouachita Wildlife Management Area's 14,000 acres have even more impact because they're joined with the Russell Sage Wildlife Management Area, which LDWF also manages, providing a total of 40,000 contiguous acres.

"This is important to people, especially hunters, because it can be very expensive to join hunting clubs on private lands," Owens said. "But they can access these areas at no cost."


Information from: The News-Star,