Nearly 1.2 million acres in Louisiana now black bear habitat

New Orleans (AP) — The federal government has designated nearly
1,900 square miles of Louisiana forest and nearby land in 15
parishes as critical habitat for the Louisiana black bear.

The move won’t affect private landowners who don’t have federal
contracts or need federal permits, said Deborah Fuller, endangered
species program coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service.

The aim is to let bears move easily between the three areas
where they now live _ one centered on the Tensas River National
Wildlife Refuge, and two in the Atchafalaya River basin. Louisiana
black bears are small even for a species that is the nation’s
smallest. Females average 120 to 250 pounds and males 150 to
350.

Over the next 20 years, the designation to take final effect
April 9 might add an average of $55,000 to $430,000 a year to the
total costs of exploring and drilling for oil and gas in Louisiana,
according to a study cited in Thursday’s announcement in the
Federal Register.

Most of that is the cost of analyzing the effects of clearing
land to put in wells, pipelines and access roads, Fuller said.
Rarely, if ever, do projects have to be modified, she said.

She also said studies have found that timbering does not hurt
the bears.

The parishes involved are Avoyelles, East Carroll, Catahoula,
Concordia, Franklin, Iberia, Iberville, Madison, Pointe Coupee,
Richland, St. Martin, St. Mary, Tensas, West Carroll, and West
Feliciana.

About half the land has been protected or restored since the
Louisiana subspecies was put on the endangered species list in
1992.

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