Intact forests supply timber products, wildlife habitat, soil and watershed protection and recreational opportunities for residents and visitors alike. As forest lands are fragmented or are converted to other land uses, these benefits decrease significantly.
The Forest Legacy Program (FLP) is a federal program in partnership with states to encourage the protection of privately-owned working forest lands. The program complements other existing forest programs, and has two primary objectives: property acquisition and conservation easements.
FLP funding is highly competitive. None of the acquisition funding has been used in Mississippi—but the Conservancy anticipates that is about to change. The Conservancy led an application process that included individual landowners, Mississippi Forestry Commission and Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks—and as of June 2013, the project was ranked first in Mississippi and second in the nation.
The proposed project includes purchasing land tracts along the Pascagoula River, adding significant stes toward completing the preservation of this area that was started almost 35 years ago. The Pascagoula is considered the largest (by volume) free-flowing river in the contiguous 48 states. The Pascagoula and its watershed exemplify the Conservancy’s long-term efforts to improve and protect areas for both people and nature.
The FLP is another example of the power of partnerships, having preserved over 2.2 million acres across the country since its inception in 1990. Funding for FLP comes through the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), established by Congress in 1964 to provide funds for the acquisition and development of public outdoor recreation acreage. In Mississippi, LWCF funding has positively impacted sites including the Mississippi Sandhill Crane Wildlife Refuge, the Vicksburg Historical Park and many others.
The Forest Legacy Program is slated to be reauthorized by Congress in 2015. This and other programs support large-scale conservation efforts that ensure the health of our land and water areas for current and future generations. If you’d like to help support the reauthorization effort, you can stay connected here, and look for additional information soon.