Lincoln Parish Residents, Dr and Mrs Armstrong, Named 2020 Private Lands Conservation Champions

(MENAFN- GetNews) Johnny and Karen have managed their 500-acre property in Lincoln Parish, La., for 13 years. The woodland community on which they reside is deeply imperiled.

Shreveport, La. - Annually, 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.

Dr Armstrong explains what the award means to him, "Karen and I and our family are truly humbled and honored by this award, and we are so very thankful, not only for this recognition but for all our extraordinary scientist friends, without whom the protection and restoration of Wafer Creek Ranch would have never been possible."  

Over the past 13 years there have been many conservation leaders who have helped me and mentored me throughout my efforts in the restoration of Wafer Creek Ranch, but through it all, it has been Latimore Smith who has been my guiding force from the beginning. He has been my teacher, my friend and my brother in the cause."

Latimore Smith, retired Nature Conservancy botanist and restoration ecologist and now co-manager of Louisiana Wild, says Johnny and Karen are true conservationists. "No one is more dedicated to restoring the natural integrity of the land entrusted to them than Johnny Armstrong and his family."

He is singularly passionate about making the land hum again with all the native diversity that can be reawakened and reweaved back into it — to make it a place truly reflective of the historic character of the forests that once ruled here. There can be no doubt his vision is to make his place a glittering gem of restoration that not only he can be proud of, but one that will inspire others to pursue a similar path to help heal the natural world around us."

Dr Armstrong also credits other local ecologists for assisting in his work. "Thanks so much to my Nature Conservancy heroes, Dan Weber and Richard Martin, who fought so hard for so long to see that the conservation easement came to fruition so that the ecosystem of Wafer Creek Ranch would be protected in perpetuity. Also, I must thank Dr Chris Reid, professor of botany, Louisiana State University, for his help throughout the years in the identification of the plants of Wafer Creek Ranch. But there are so many others who were a part of this effort, so our thanks go to them."

I believe Chris Doffitt, a botanist for The Natural Heritage Program, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and Brant Bradley with the NRCS, were responsible for putting Wafer Creek Ranch up for the award, so we owe our gratitude to Chris and Brant."

There are three reasons conservation of the Armstrong's property is critical to the success of the LMVJV mission. First, and not least of which, the woodland community on which they reside is deeply imperiled. There used to be more than four to six million acres in Louisiana, and now there is less than 10 percent of that left — much of it not in good shape.

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.

According to the LMVJV announcement, "As a result of the Armstrong family's stewardship activities, they have created what is perhaps the best example of this community type in the state."

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."

And the LMVJV announcement goes on to say, "For their multiple contributions as private landowner conservationists and local stewardship leaders, NRCS and LDWF jointly feel that Dr Johnny and Karen Armstrong are model conservation champions for the Lower Mississippi Valley Joint Venture."

The Armstrong's couldn't be prouder, as Johnny reiterates, "Again, the Conservation Champion Award is an extraordinary gift that we will cherish for always."

Dr Johnny Armstrong is also an author and lecturer. Learn more about his work by visiting his blog, The Canopy Connection . Dr Armstrong is also an author, his debut book Shadowshine: An Animal Adventure is available on Amazon .

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