NFWF Announces $1.2 Million in Grants to Restore Hardwood Forests and Aquatic Habitats in Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley

Five grants to support restoration of forest, wetland and stream habitat that benefit native species including waterfowl, the swamp rabbit and the Louisiana black bear

Washington D.C., Aug. 14, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) today announced $1.2 million in grants to improve, restore, and expand important forest and wetland habitats in the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley. The grants will generate $1.2 million in matching contributions from grantees for a total conservation impact of $2.4 million.

The grants were awarded through the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley Restoration Fund (LMAV Fund), a partnership between NFWF and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, International Paper’s Forestland Stewards Partnership, and the Walton Family Foundation. 

“These five projects will build on current restoration efforts within the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley and help further expand and enhance forested wetland habitats and improve aquatic habitat connectivity within the nation’s largest floodplain,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “These projects will not only help fish and wildlife species but will also benefit local communities and landowners by reducing flooding, sequestering carbon, and enhancing hunting and fishing opportunities.” 

This year’s awards mark the sixth year of funding through this public-private partnership. The projects supported by the five grants announced today will establish new bottomland hardwood forests by planting trees on frequently flooded cropland, improve existing forest habitat by implementing wildlife-friendly forest management treatments that create more diverse forest structure, and enhance wetland hydrologic function by repairing or installing water control structures that help mimic the natural flow of water across the land. 

“NRCS offers science-based solutions to improve forest health, create and restore vibrant wildlife and aquatic habitat, sequester carbon and mitigate flood impacts,” said NRCS Chief Terry Cosby. “These projects intensify work already in progress by conscientious private landowners to create, improve and restore healthy forests, protect wildlife species dependent on wetlands for their survival and aid in climate resiliency.”

“Sustainably managed forests are the heart of our stewardship values at International Paper,” said Sophie Beckham, International Paper vice president and chief sustainability officer. “We are proud of our partnership with NFWF in supporting grants that will have a real impact in restoring healthy and productive ecosystems within the communities of the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley.”

More than 80 percent of the region’s forests and wetlands are in private ownership, so grantees will be engaging in outreach and educational activities with private landowners to promote voluntary conservation practices that benefit species like the swamp rabbit, Louisiana black bear, waterfowl and forest birds. Additionally, projects will improve aquatic habitat connectivity and quality within secondary channels along the Mississippi River by creating notches within dikes to allow for fish passage and through the construction and installation of woody debris traps in previously connected secondary channels which provide the structural diversity needed for aquatic insects that are indicators of a healthy river. Collectively the funded projects will:

•    Plant more than 3.1 million bottomland hardwood seedlings, creating forest habitat for a myriad of species and increasing carbon capture and storage. 
•    Improve hydrology – the timing and extent of soil saturation – on 10,000 acres of wetlands. 
•    Enhance 5,000 acres of existing hardwood forest with wildlife-friendly forest treatments, an area nearly six times the size of Central Park in New York City

“These grant opportunities are critical to the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley,” said Michael Oetker, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s acting regional director. “Private landowners manage some of the best wildlife habitat, and we are proud to be a partner in this effort. These funds will help improve habitat for hundreds of species, protect soils and waters, and keep working lands working – for the benefit of all people.”

The Mississippi Alluvial Valley covers 24 million acres across Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee and is the largest wetland ecosystem in the United States. The region’s hardwood forests, oxbow lakes and other habitat types are home to a wide array of wildlife from the American green-winged teal to the fat pocketbook mussel. More than 60 percent of North America’s bird species use the valley as a landing pad during the migration south or call it home over the winter. 

By the 1990s, less than 25 percent of the region’s forest cover had survived the conversion to agricultural land and the alteration of wetland hydrology for flood control. These changes reduced the amount, quality and connectivity of the forests and wetland habitats and degraded water quality within the Mississippi River and tributaries, lowering the capacity of the entire ecosystem to sustain fish and wildlife species. 

The LMAV Fund supports projects that improve, restore, and expand existing bottomland hardwood forests and wetlands to improve habitats for the more than 100 breeding land birds and other forested wetland-dependent species that inhabit these ecosystems. The fund also works to improve water quality and restore aquatic habitat connectivity for aquatic species like the Alligator gar which need access to the floodplain and river for different parts of their life cycle. The fund’s work benefits local communities by improving forest health, enhancing wildlife habitat, increasing water quality, and supporting jobs associated with these projects within the Mississippi Alluvial Valley.

A complete list of the 2023 grants made through the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley Restoration Fund is available here.    

About the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
Chartered by Congress in 1984, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) protects and restores the nation’s fish, wildlife, plants and habitats. Working with federal, corporate, foundation and individual partners, NFWF has funded more than 6,000 organizations and generated a total conservation impact of $8.1 billion. NFWF is an equal opportunity provider. Learn more at

About the Natural Resources Conservation Service
As the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s primary private lands conservation agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps America’s farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners make investments in their operations and local communities to keep working lands working, boost rural economies, increase the competitiveness of American agriculture, and improve the quality of our air, water, soil, and habitat. Through one-on-one, personalized and voluntary assistance, NRCS works with producers and communities to find the best solutions to meet their unique conservation and business goals to ensure the health of our natural resources and the long-term sustainability of American agriculture.

About the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is to work with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit

About International Paper
International Paper (NYSE: IP) is a global producer of planet-friendly packaging, pulp and other fiber-based products, and one of North America's largest recyclers. Headquartered in Memphis, Tenn., we employ approximately 39,000 colleagues globally who are committed to creating what's next. We serve customers worldwide, with manufacturing operations in North America, Latin America, North Africa and Europe. Net sales for 2022 were $21.2 billion. Additional information can be found by visiting

About Walton Family Foundation
The Walton Family Foundation is, at its core, a family-led foundation. Three generations of the descendants of our founders, Sam and Helen Walton, and their spouses, work together to lead the foundation and create access to opportunity for people and communities. We work in three areas: improving K-12 education, protecting rivers and oceans and the communities they support, and investing in our home region of Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta.



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