The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant: What good is it?”-Aldo Leopold
Island 34 is and will continue to be committed to the conservation and development of waterfowl habitat as well as habitat for all other wildlife on the farm. Upon purchasing the island, the 1200 acres of open ground was conventionally farmed for soybean and cotton production, which has almost no wildlife benefit after harvest. As soon as spring weather arrived in 2022, a plan was implemented for native grasses, buffer strips, riparian areas, food plots, moist soil units, tree plantings, and unharvested conventional crop production, not only for waterfowl, but every species of wildlife.
In addition to moist soil units and riparian areas, we will annually leave over 400 acres of unharvested corn and rice crops just for waterfowl. Talk about truly putting your money where your mouth is! We know of no one else willing to leave half a million dollars of agriculture crop in the field for waterfowl other than Island 34. We will also not be hunting the vast majority of Island 34 for three years, allowing the ducks and geese to “imprint” on the farm. Essentially, imprinting means the waterfowl will be learning Island 34 is pressure free and food rich, then passing that information along to their offspring for a few generations. Another integral part of the habitat management plan often overlooked is leaving the island flooded along with continuing to manage water levels through March 15th of every year. Obviously, we want all waterfowl to make it back to their nesting grounds as healthy as possible.
The last, but most crucial piece to the success of any waterfowl management plan, involves the manipulation of the water levels. To insure we understood the lay of the land, we utilized LiDAR technology to accurately survey the island. This LiDAR data grants us the ability on a computer to hypothetically raise or lower water levels by 1/10th of a foot anywhere on the island. It has also allowed us to know exactly what water levels are needed in each field, exactly what to plant, depending on the depth of the water in each field, and where plus how tall to build levees to maximize waterfowl utilization of the food.
The island currently has 11 irrigation wells that pump 3000GPM each to help flood and maintain water levels in this fertile, but seepy, sandy soil. We also have two “industrial” relift pumps that pump 80,000gpm combined from the Mississippi River. They can fill your backyard swimming pool in 20 seconds. Again, the island soil seeps tremendously. We have calculated that the primary 500 acres of flooded ground roughly seeps 20,000 to 30,000gpm at the preferred water levels.
All in all, waterfowl, as do all animals, want easy access to food, shelter, and rest. We plan to roll out the red carpet and give them that.