Kisatchie National Forest still recovering from downed timber, missing birds ahead of weekend storms

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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - Last month's tornado ripped through Central Louisiana destroying homes, churches, schools and leaving the lives of so many locals turned upside down.

Source: KALB

There was also another area that didn't go unscathed: Kisatchie National Forest.

"The Vernon unit got hit the hardest. We lost about 2,500 acres of timber, and then another 700 or 800 acres on the Evangeline unit," said biologist Matt Pardue.

The Kisatchie National Forest known for displaying the beautiful nature Louisiana has to offer, a great place for people from across the nation to visit and take a breath of fresh air.

However, when the tornado struck, it took out more than just trees.

"This is the largest population of Red-Cockaded Woodpeckers in the state," Pardue said.

For years, biologists with Kisatchie have worked to de-list the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker as an endangered species, and their efforts have led to significant progress.

"These birds are part of our natural heritage," said Pardue.

When trees were lost with the tornado, so were many of the birds' habitats.

"We lost ten clusters out of about 200," Pardue reported.

Temporary solutions to the issue were immediately put into place in hopes that the birds would return.

"The tornado came on Monday. On Tuesday, we came and analyzed everything, went and checked on all our clusters, tried to find out exactly where these birds are. And then Wednesday, we came out and put in artificial housing for these birds," Pardue said.

It's now a wait-and-see process. A few birds have returned so far, but this weekend's possible severe weather and threat of tornadoes are approaching quickly.

Pardue said preventing and minimizing damage isn’t possible.

"I'll cry. I’ll probably get more gray in my beard than I got now," he added.

He can only hope for the best and have faith that Kisatchie’s population of the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker will one day return to their original home here in Cenla.

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