America's Wetland Birding Trail Extends Reach to Cover Entire State -- 03/18/2008
Office of Lieutenant GovernorFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 18, 2008
America's Wetland Birding Trail Extends Reach to Cover Entire State
New Birding Sites to Increase Local Eco-tourism Dollars
RUSTON - Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu today announced an expansion to the state's America's Wetland Birding Trail. Three new pathways in North Louisiana - the Red River, Mississippi River and Zachary Taylor Parkway loops - complete the trail and qualify it as a statewide bird and wildlife tourism attraction.
The trail was begun in 2004 as a collection of scenic paths that crossed 22 southern Louisiana parishes. "The expansion of America's Wetland Birding Trail into Northern and Central Louisiana gives finality to a program designed to preserve and display to others the natural resources that already exist in our state," said Lt. Governor Landrieu. "Bird enthusiasts have long recognized Louisiana as an avian paradise, and a statewide trail facilitates their planning, travel and eventual contributions to the local economy."
The new paths are the result of three years of research, site identification, cataloging, assessments and public input throughout each of the new corridors in Northwest, Northeast, and Central Louisiana. A larger, more diverse trail now offers the estimated 46 million bird and wildlife watchers worldwide a greater incentive to spend their time in Louisiana.
Bird and wildlife tourism has become big business in the U.S., making great economic impacts in the markets it penetrates. Enthusiasts often spend two or more days in their chosen locations, stimulating local economies in the form of dining, lodging and equipment expenditures. Louisiana expects to generate approximately $30 million in direct and indirect economic impact from bird and wildlife watchers annually.
America's Wetland Birding Trail now consists of 264 sites on 26 loops and 10 scenic pathways statewide. Many of these sites are located in rural settings near rivers, deltas, open meadows, lagoons and in several pine and hardwood forests. The paths follow interstate, state and federal highways around the state as individual loops stand together as one tourist attraction within the transportation network of Louisiana.
"This is an excellent way for bird enthusiasts to discover some of the incredible species that migrate through and live in Lincoln Parish, said Kyle Edmiston, President of the Ruston Lincoln Convention and Visitors Bureau. "Many of the birding sites are also strategically located near other outdoor tourist attractions, which in most cases will extend out-of-town stays and increase visitor spending."
Bird enthusiasts often enjoy other outdoor recreation activities such as hiking, camping, and cycling. The involvement of the Office of Tourism's Heritage Tourism Development Division and State Parks' Outdoor Recreation Division were instrumental in creating a synergistic effort that takes advantage of these natural associations. This has led to the development of birding locations near outdoor recreation sites that were already established within the state.
This project was a joint effort of the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism and the Department of Transportation and Development's National Scenic Byway program which provided a $168,000 grant to initiate the program.
Louisiana ranks in the top dozen states in the country for birding, as around 450 migratory bird species can be found in the state. This is mostly by virtue of the facts that Louisiana is located on a major migratory flyway, and the state's diverse geography and mild climate make it a natural paradise for many avian species.