For thousands of years, much of southern Mississippi was covered in a great longleaf pine forest that stretched from Virginia to Texas, while Delta forests once blanketed 24 million acres—the largest expanse of forested wetlands in North America. Today some 4.4 million bottomland acres remain, mostly in small, degraded patches. Less than 3% of the original 92 million acres of longleaf pine forest remains, making it one of the most endangered ecosystems in North America. Throughout Mississippi, forest fragmentation threatens animal species that depend on large, undisturbed forest blocks to survive.
The Nature Conservancy in Mississippi is working to conserve the remaining longleaf pine and bottomland hardwood forests and their ecologically significant inhabitants like the Gopher tortoise and the Louisiana black bear. Through public and private partnerships, we have and will restore thousands of acres of
Management strategies that demand the most collaboration between agencies is prescribed fire and monitoring of key species and their associated habitats. Controlled burns are used to restore the natural process of fire back onto the landscape to provide many benefits – improve wildlife habitat, release nutrients, expose soil for seed germination, and stimulate growth of longleaf pine seedlings, grasses, and wildflowers. Monitoring is conducted to ensure that restoration actions are having the intended results. This includes monitoring of the effects of prescribed burns, the hydrology of wetlands and plant and animal populations. At many of the preserves, there are designated vegetation, aquatic insect, and stream shape monitoring stations, as well as groundwater and stream monitoring wells.
The Nature Conservancy of Mississippi has recently announced the acquisition of another 2,100 acres along the Leaf and Pascagoula Rivers in the George and Greene County region of the Pascagoula River Basin. This property will connect over 450,000 contiguous acres between the De Soto National Forest and the Pascagoula Wildlife Management Area, marking the largest tract of contiguous protected lands in Mississippi. If you are interested in learning more about this Pascagoula connection, please click here.
Through negotiations with the family owned Pascagoula Hardwood Company, and diligent compromise with the State of Mississippi, the Conservancy was able to establish the Pascagoula River Wildlife Management Area in 1976.
Today, our Forest Program manages over 12,000 acres of Nature Preserves that are owned by the Mississippi Chapter of TNC. One of the most endangered amphibians in the world, the Dusky Gopher Frog, is raised, released, and monitored on these very Conservancy preserves. Conservancy staff work with colleagues from across the southeast to implement a multi-state, integrated approach to improving longleaf habitats regionally. This region-wide effort will not only increase the acreage of longleaf pine habitat, but will engage local communities in land use planning that protects, restores, and expands healthy longleaf pine forests while supporting sustainable economic development. In Mississippi, we are partners in the State Longleaf Team as well as the De Soto-Camp Shelby Longleaf Implementation Team. Coordinated efforts like these teams allow the Conservancy and partners to maximize our effectiveness. Current and future partnerships will be geared towards ensuring region-wide support for Longleaf preservation.
"I started out as a land steward on the Upper Pascagoula Preserves (an interesting aside is that my ancestors once owned part of the Fisher Preserve, which I managed). From there, I began taking care of all of the Conservancy's preserves in Mississippi, focusing on restoration activities like invasive species control and prescribed burns. I have been involved in all aspects of the Pascagoula River Program, including land acquisition. I now focus much of my work on Longleaf Pine restoration and protection projects."
degraded forests through the use of prescribed fire, wetland mitigation, tree plantings, and invasive species management. TNC's reforestation efforts began about 4 decades ago with what is called the Pascagoula Purchase. The purchase of 32,000 acres of pristine bottomland swamp in 1976 was a monumental feat that changed the way the Conservancy looked at land protection. In the early 1970s the Conservancy was contacted about a large block of land on the Pascagoula River, one of the largest undammed streams in the lower 48 states.
We also work closely with the Mississippi Military Department to promote longleaf pine restoration efforts for the state. Over 10 years of applied research at Camp Shelby enables National Guard troops to continue training around ecologically sensitive habitats, in conjunction with providing TNC staff with invaluable experience and knowledge on the management of sensitive sites of Mississippi. We are part of several longleaf pine forest restoration partnerships and collaborate with federal and state agencies, non-profits, and other interested parties to coordinate and accelerate restoration efforts.
A large portion of our work is driven by forest programs, from land acquisition to land management.
Take a look at all that we do to ensure we are optimizing the use of our forest lands.