Lincoln Parish couple wins conservation award

There used to be more than five million acres in Louisiana and now there is less than 10 percent left.
Published: Oct. 6, 2020 at 9:48 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 7, 2020 at 1:38 PM CDT
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LINCOLN PARISH, La. (KNOE) - Every year, the Lower Mississippi Valley Joint Venture (LMVJV) honors private citizens within its geography for outstanding work in the areas of conservation. The Partnership exists to sustain bird habitats and their populations. This year, Doctor Johnny and Mrs. Karen Armstrong were recognized for their tireless work in maintaining and enhancing an old-growth stand of shortleaf pine and oak-hickory woodland.

Johnny and Karen have managed 500-acres of land right outside Ruston, LA for the last 14 years. Johnny says the woodland community on which they reside is deeply imperiled. There used to be more than five million acres in Louisiana and now there is less than 10 percent left.

“So, the question might be is, well, why do it? What why would we want to restore a native ecosystem? And the best answer to that question is to rescue biodiversity," Dr. Armstrong said. "Because right now, we have a global crisis of profound biodiversity destruction.”

There are three reasons conservation of the Armstrong’s property is critical to the success of the LMVJV mission.

Second, the care and attention the Armstrong’s have given this property have improved the habitat for game and non-game species for years to come.

Third, the Armstrong’s use their learnings to invite students and other area conservationists to learn and apply the techniques they have used.

“We are right outside of Ruston… and that’s a dangerous place for a pristine ecosystem to be if it’s not protected," Dr. Armstrong said. "This would be a developer’s dream out here. so, you got to protect the land from all that stuff. and it’s just so important without protection.”

Dr. Armstrong’s use of prescribed fire to maintain an open woodland ecosystem creates excellent habitat for wild turkey, northern bobwhite quail and white-tailed deer. This shortleaf pine/oak-hickory woodland provides an open understory that is suitable habitat for many grassland birds and other Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN), including grasshopper sparrow, Bachman’s sparrow, and red-cockaded woodpecker. Work is also taking place to protect and enhance the riparian areas associated with this habitat.

Armstrong retired three years ago to focus on the restoration and conservation full-time. It’s something he doesn’t regret and being awarded the 2020 Private Lands Conservation Champions meant everything to him.

“Well, it was just such a huge honor to us. We were so happy to receive it," Dr. Armstrong said. “But, you know, we owe so much to all the people who helped bring that about, because I could not do this alone."

Dr. Johnny Armstrong is also an author and lecturer. Learn more about his work by visiting his blog, The Canopy Connection.

View his book Shadowshine: An Animal Adventure available on Amazon.

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