An early Christmas present

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Area outdoors enthusiasts just got an early Christmas present.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Wildlife Management Areas may be growing in north Louisiana and that could give Morehouse and Union parish residents new outdoor recreation opportunities, including public hunting.

LDWF has reached a tentative agreement with Molpus Woodlands Group on behalf of a client to acquire 8,755 acres of land in Morehouse and Union parishes that would be managed as two WMAs. The tracts are along Chemin-A-Haut Bayou (3,842 acres), located in Morehouse Parish, and Bayou DeLoutre (4,913 acres) in Union Parish. The land could become part of LDWF’s WMA system as early as the spring of 2016.

“We’re excited about the possibility of adding these critical expanses to our WMAs’ roster,’’ LDWF Secretary Robert Barham said. “One of our top goals is to continue to ensure viable wildlife resources are sustained in all areas of the state. Creating WMAs at Chemin-A-Haut and Bayou DeLoutre would be a major step in that direction.

“Another positive is that we’ll be increasing the opportunities for Louisiana residents to enjoy all that our WMAs have to offer.’’

LDWF manages 1.6 million acres on 55 WMAs throughout Louisiana. The agency’s goal is to provide access to WMA landscapes for outdoor recreational opportunities as well as provide the necessary habitats to support both game and non-game wildlife species.

The benefits of acquiring and transforming Chemin-A-Haut and Bayou DeLoutre properties into WMAs are many, including increasing water quality in the Ouachita River Watershed, which serves approximately 180,000 people.

Bayou DeLoutre is a designated Louisiana Natural and Scenic River.

The Chemin-A-Haut tract is part of the Bayou Bartholomew drainage, which also is a designated Louisiana Natural and Scenic River. This bayou is 359 miles in length, making it the world’s longest. It is also one of America’s most diverse waterways, containing over 115 species of fish.