Kisatchie National Forest Quarter
Longleaf pine trees have been called “the tree that built the South.” Early settlers highly valued this tree due to its resistance to wildfires, ice, wind, diseases and pine beetles. They used the lumber to build homes, businesses, ships and furniture, and used the resin for medicines and turpentine. They even used the long needles to make coiled baskets.
Once covering almost a million acres throughout the Southeastern United States, only a few thousand acres of this vital habitat remain. Kisatchie National Forest in Central and Northern Louisiana is one of these areas. This forest, unlike most other national forests, is not contained in a single unit, but in eight separate geographical areas that total more than 604,000 acres. Kisatchie is a mix of bald cypress groves, old growth longleaf pine forests, meadows, bayous and streams.
Some cool and fun facts about this ecologically diverse area:
- Longleaf pine habitat can contain as many as 300 different species of groundcover plants per acre, and approximately 60 percent of the amphibian and reptile species found in the Southeast, many of which live nowhere else. This forested habitat is home to animal species including the wild turkey, fox squirrel, northern bobwhite quail, red-cockaded woodpecker and gopher tortoise.
- The name “Kisatchie” is from the Kichai Indians tribe who are part of the Caddoan Confederacy. This is the name for the group of Native American tribes which traditionally lived in what is now East Texas, Northern Louisiana and portions of Southern Arkansas and Oklahoma.
- The United States designated the Kisatchie a national forest in 1930 after the efforts of a naturalist who witnessed the depletion of Louisiana’s lush forests at the hands of lumber companies. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s conservation and emergency work programs, such as the Soil Conservation Service and the Civilian Conservation Corps, helped the Kisatchie forest recover. The forest grew from 75,000 acres in 1932 to more than half a million acres in 1940.
- The Kisatchie National Forest played a vital role in America’s victory in World War II. In 1940, in anticipation of the United States joining the war, military leaders chose a parcel of land in the forest for a series of huge military exercises. These “Louisiana Maneuvers” involved 400,000 men divided into the “Red Army” and the “Blue Army,” and included Dwight Eisenhower and George Patton. The exercises focused on logistics, navigation and other strategic maneuvers. The Army still uses about 20 percent of the Kisatchie area at Fort Polk. This is the home of the Joint Readiness Training Center, where soldiers train.