The 26,000-acre Paul J Rainey Wildlife Sanctuary in southwest Louisiana makes the National Audubon Society a stakeholder, with real interests and concerns over the health and sustainability of this landscape. The Sanctuary was established in 1924 by a donation from the Rainey family, so our presence here as a landowner is approaching a century.
The property includes not only marshland and ponds, but beach and bayshore. We face all of the problems and threats of any landowner in south Louisiana.
This area at one time was primarily fresh marsh, and was dominated by a slow, east-west drainage of rainwater through meandering bayous between east-west ridges. Because of dramatic changes in hydrology that resulted from the north-south excavation of the Freshwater Bayou Navigation Canal and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, the area is now dominated by tidal flushing, with salinity levels that have induced habitats to shift to brackish marsh. This increased tidal flushing and increased water flow also activates and removes sediment and organics from the marshes, which further affects the resilience of the area.
The Sanctuary has always had an onsite land-manager, and is now under the competent care of the Senior Sanctuary Manager, Timmy Vincent. Along with our neighbors, Audubon works on a regional scale to actively manage the marsh health. By pooling resources to protect our neighbors’ land, we protect our own. This has always been the philosophy of the region, but is now formalized by the Rainey Conservation Alliance.