A Gift for the Trees—and the Future
MSU students and faculty have access to a "living laboratory".
Thanks to a generous gift from Davis K. and Ann Mortensen, students and faculty from Mississippi State University (MSU) will have access to a “living laboratory” of longleaf pine habitat adjacent to Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center near Hattiesburg. The property, named the Davis and Ann Mortensen Forest, is part of the Army Compatible Use Buffer (ACUB) system, which provides a buffer around military installations.
These buffers protect land from development, limiting the effects of encroachment of urbanization and maximize land inside the installation that can be used to support its mission. The ACUB program creates land conservation partnerships between the Army and non-governmental conservation organizations to protect land from development that is incompatible with the military mission. The Conservancy works with Camp Shelby staff to facilitate critical land management practices such as prescribed burning, protection of critical wetlands and watersheds, and providing habitat for species of concern.
“This is one of a few privately-funded ACUB sites in the state of Mississippi,” said George Hopper, dean of the College of Forest Resources. The College will manage the property as part of its MSU Bulldog Forest, currently with 18,000 acres of land. “Our college is pleased to be in a position to optimize this tract of land, manage the timber, and enhance and protect wildlife species dependent on this habitat. This site will dramatically impact the students, faculty and programs of the university, particularly in our college.”
The Nature Conservancy will hold a working conservation easement on the Mortensen Forest, assuring that the property’s conservation values are protected in perpetuity. Conservation easements limit development and allow for uses such as recreation, selective timber harvesting and prescribed burning. Conservation easements have protected millions of acres of wildlife habitat and open space.
Davis, a Mississippi native, is a long-standing supporter of both The Nature Conservancy and MSU. He is currently a member of the Conservancy’s Georgia Chapter. He believes trees and wildlife are among Earth’s greatest natural resources. He also understands the importance of responsible timber management and conservation efforts, and the necessity of educating MSU students to be good stewards of their environment.
Mortensen retired in 1997 as executive vice president for building products with Georgia-Pacific Corporation, which included responsibility for 5.6 million acres of company-owned timberland. A 1956 industrial management graduate, he served 35 years with the company.
The Mortensen’s gift to the MSU Foundation will allow the College of Forest Resources to manage the land adjacent to Camp Shelby. Davis was drawn to
the idea because of his close association with timber resources while working with Georgia-Pacific and the fact that timber harvest proceeds will fund scholarships.
Mortensen has fond memories of the time he spent on the Camp Shelby base. He went through basic training there as a member of the 631st Field Artillery Battalion headquartered in Hattiesburg. A native of nearby Moss Point, he spent two years in the Army prior to attending community college and later enrolling at MSU.
“MSU and the College of Forest Resources will receive many benefits from studying and managing this particular property because of its location, and because of our partnership with The Nature Conservancy,” said Hopper.
The college will manage the property and utilize it for teaching, research and timber sales. Under the terms of the conservation easement, much of the timber will be managed according to a plan that promotes native longleaf pine savanna and habitat suitable for gopher tortoise and black pinesnake, two threatened species dependent on this type of ecosystem.
Over time, portions of the land will be restored to the longleaf pine habitat native to the area. Future proceeds from the harvest of the timber and other revenue from the property will fund MSU scholarships bearing the Mortensens’ names.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the web at www.nature.org. To learn about the Conservancy’s global initiatives, visit www.nature.org/global. To keep up with current Conservancy news, follow @nature_press on Twitter.