A WETLAND OF INTERNATIONAL IMPORTANCE
Initially signed in 1971, over 160 nations have now signed The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands treaty and agreed to protect wetlands within their boundaries. There are now over 1,900 designated Ramsar sites around the world and 29 sites in the United States. The Convention celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2011.
The mission of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands:
“The conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world.”
ABOUT THE DESIGNATION
The Caddo Lake Ramsar Site currently includes approximately 20,000 acres on the Texas – Louisiana Border. The site includes both public and private lands, in and along Caddo Lake and some of its tributaries. The Ramsar designation was accomplished through unique collaborations between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the U.S. Army, and the Caddo Lake Institute. There are plans in the works to expand this prestigious designation to the Louisiana side of Caddo lake.
HISTORY OF THE DESIGNATION
Original Designation: On October 23, 1993, Caddo Lake became the thirteenth Ramsar Site in the United States. The original designation area included approximately 8,000 acres of public land, 500 acres in Caddo Lake State Park and 7,500 acres in the Caddo Lake State Wildlife Management Area.
The First Enlargement: In 1998, the Site was expanded to include approximately 11,700 additional acres. The expansion included 1,400 acres of the old Longhorn Army Ammunition Plant (LHAAP), which has now become the Caddo Lake National Wildlife Refuge. It also included some private lands.
BASIS FOR DESIGNATION
The Caddo Lake Ramsar wetland site is a “Wetland of International Importance” based upon meeting multiple criteria of the Ramsar Convention, including:
- Contains a rare or unique example of a natural wetland: The Caddo Lake wetlands contain one of the best examples of a mature flooded bald cypress forest in the U.S.
- Supports important populations of plant and animal species, including vulnerable or endangered species: Approximately 216 bird, 47 mammal, and 90 reptile and amphibian species occur in the area, many of which depend on the specialized habitat provided by the wetlands of Caddo Lake. A number of animals and plants here are considered rare, threatened or endangered under national and international laws. These species include, but are not limited to, the peregrine falcon, the alligator snapping turtle, and the eastern big-eared bat. The Caddo Lake system is one of the most diverse communities of plants in Texas, if not the U.S.
- Supports animal species at critical stages in their life cycles: The wetlands of Caddo Lake are very important to migratory bird species within the Central Flyway. The area supports one of the highest breeding populations of wood ducks, prothonotary warblers, and other birds.
- Supports indigenous fish that are representative of the wetland that contribute to global biological diversity: Caddo Lake supports diverse fish fauna, with as many as 86 species. There are at least 18 species of game fish present and these are certainly important to the sports fishery activity at Caddo Lake.
RAMSAR GUIDANCE & THE CADDO LAKE CLEARINGHOUSE
Co-authored by the Caddo Lake Institute, the Ramsar Guidance was adopted by parties to the meeting of the Ramsar Convention in 1999. This Guidance calls for a world-wide effort by governmental and non-governmental organizations to maximize the involvement of local communities and indigenous peoples in the conservation, management, and wise use of their local wetlands.
In response to the Guidance, the Caddo Lake Clearinghouse was created to assure local public input to decisions at the local, state and federal level affecting Caddo Lake. The Clearinghouse also functions as a forum to facilitate collaborative wetland management and use at Caddo Lake. In May 2002, the U.S. National Ramsar Committee recognized the Caddo Lake Ramsar Clearinghouse as the official local Ramsar committee for Caddo Lake’s Ramsar wetlands.