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Be a good neighbor. Help keep the bayous clean for wildlife

  • Published
  • By Kate Hasapes
  • 2nd Civil Engineer Squadron

Louisiana is known as the Sportsman’s Paradise and has an abundance of wildlife from white-tailed deer and alligators to the smallest prothonotary warbler and swallowtail butterflies.  But have you ever paid attention to the vast diversity of wildlife on Barksdale’s Main Base?  Raccoons, red-shouldered hawks, leopard frogs, gray foxes, and even otters can be spotted around base housing and the golf course.  Bald eagles, snapping turtles, swamp rabbits, and wood ducks can be seen while exploring Barksdale’s East Reservation.  Even alligators are found on Barksdale’s lakes and ponds and are occasionally seen in Mack’s Bayou!

These native neighbors can live in harmony with the base residents, but their homes are in trouble.  Litter, yard chemicals, and dog waste can all negatively impact the habitat and water quality.  The majority of litter found on Barksdale are single use plastics such as plastic bags, bottles, and styrofoam containers.  These items clutter the ditches and bayous, and are a persistent problem on base.  Yard chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers can cause other problems to our waterways.  Fertilizers and dog waste artificially add nutrients to the water, causing algae blooms, decreasing dissolved oxygen needed for aquatic life, and mucking up the water.  Pesticides and herbicides can kill beneficial aquatic plants and insects, some of which are food for fish, turtles, and birds.  In some instances, these chemicals can bioaccumulate and negatively impact our mega fauna.  Bioaccumulation is the increase in concentration of a pollutant as it goes up the food chain.  Two common examples are DDT in bald eagles and mercury levels in fish.  All of these chemicals can also leach into the ground and impact our ground water.  The more conscience we are about our environmental impacts, the better we can be about “leaving no trace”, “reducing our footprints”, and overall being good wildlife neighbors.  Reduce, reuse, and recycle!

One specific Airman family has taken the extra step and created a wildlife friendly butterfly garden at their home in base housing.  SSgt Patrick Sullivan (2 SFS/S5X, plans and programs coordinator), his wife Sarah, and kids Ava, Johnathan, and Elliot have filled their garden with wildlife friendly plants like milkweed, lantana, fire ferns, firebush, coneflower, snapdragons, and lavender.  Just in their little corner garden, they have observed Monarch and Painted Lady Butterflies, Praying Mantises, green treefrogs, little brown skink, bees galore, and even a secretive Grahams Crayfish Snake.  Just a stone’s throw away, wading birds like snowy egrets and night-herons can be seen in the bayou by the golf course.  The Sullivans planted the garden as a way to better observe the local wild critters.  Their kids enjoy seeing and learning about the animals up close and personal and knowing they helped make a happy home for them.

If individuals or groups are interested in learning more about our bayous, native wildlife, or waterway cleanup events, contact Barksdale’s Environmental Program Manager (Kate Hasapes, 456-2770, stephanie.hasapes@us.af.mil).  It takes the whole team to keep Barksdale clean!