Bill Capo / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS -- Just off I-10 in far eastern New Orleans is the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge. The 25,000 acre fresh water marsh teems with fish and wildlife, and yet many drivers may not even realize the natural treasure that can be found just off the interstate.
"But you really don't see the beauty of Bayou Sauvage until you are actually out into the marsh like we are today in an airboat," said Bayou Sauvage Refuge Manage Jack Bohannan. "It is very important."
"People should care, because this is your nursery grounds for your crabs, your shrimp, your freshwater species, Sacalait, Green Trout, Chinquapins," said Pon Dixson of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
But the Bayou Sauvage marsh has changed drastically in the 20 years Pon Dixson has been with the U-S Fish and Wildlife Service.
"We've lost a lot of marsh. The area behind us, there was probably 50 percent more vegetation here 20 years ago as opposed to what we're seeing now," he said. "Right here was all vegetation, and actually we had some Cypress trees."
Today the biggest birds in the sky over Bayou Sauvage were two Louisiana National Guard helicopters that flew in loads of recycled Christmas trees collected by the city. Now they are building a Christmas tree fence across a section of open water to help rebuild the marsh.
"Every bit of marsh we can reclaim is very important," said Bohannan. "We're losing much more marsh than we can ever regain right now."
7500 recycled Christmas trees are being used to build 500 feet of fence that Fish & Wildlife agents designed to stop erosion from waves and trap sediment to build new marsh. Katrina interrupted the project that started in 1998, but they are seeing progress again.
"We have emergent marsh that is starting to reestablish itself," said Dixson.
You know it is interesting to be right here, and smell the smells of Christmas in the marsh. They hope to finish this project next year, and when this area is completely closed off, they hope this area of water will eventually become marshland once again.
"I hope it will probably accrete anywhere from 500 to 1,000 acres of emergent marsh," said Dixson.
"It's a special place to me," concluded Jack Bohannan. "I love my job. Every day I come to work I look forward to it."