Places We Protect

The Pascagoula Purchase: A National Model for Conservation

By Rebecca Stowe

The Pascagoula Purchase. A lofty name for a lofty project. 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 rivers in the lower 48 states. Through negotiations with the family owned Pascagoula Hardwood Company, the Conservancy finally came to a compromise and was able to take ownership of the 32,000 acres. This was the largest land deal that the Conservancy had ever made at that point.

We worked diligently with the State of Mississippi, who also made history through the last minute passage of a $15 million bond to pay for the land. The purchase was the largest bottomland hardwood tract acquired by a state out of its own funds for the purpose of conservation. After the initial purchase through a private loan, the Conservancy sold the property to the state. Since 1976, the public has been able to enjoy the beauty and richness of the Pascagoula River Wildlife Management Area — thanks to this partnership.

Mississippi soon became a model for conservation because of this successful state/non-profit partnership. Soon thereafter, this approach to conservation was quickly put in place throughout the Conservancy and other conservation organizations. Many of these methods are now standard practice.

What the Nature Conservancy is doing Today

However, this is not the end of the story for Mississippi. Since that first big acquisition, the Conservancy, along with our state and federal partners, has continued to work along the Pascagoula. There is now almost 70,000 protected acres along the 80-mile long main stem corridor from the coast to the headwaters of the river including over 9,000 acres of Conservancy owned preserves, and state and federally owned lands.

There is much more to do, since these forested corridors are incredibly important for wide-ranging animals like the Louisiana Black Bear and the Swallow-Tailed Kite. We are now working to link up this protected corridor with the DeSoto National Forest and Leaf River Wilderness and to fill in unprotected gaps in the lower part of the river system. Not only do we partner to place lands under public ownership, we also work with landowners that want to see their property conserved for the future, while retaining ownership of it.


Learn More About the Pascagoula River:

Pascagoula Watershed

Pascagoula River Conservation Profile

Pascagoula River Conservation Action Plan


Nature Conservancy Preserves on the Pascagoula River:

Charles M. Deaton Nature Preserve

Herman Murrah Preserve

Robbie Doak Fisher Preserve





x animal

Sign up for Nature eNews!

Sign Up for Nature e-News

Learn about the places you love. Find out
how you can help.

Thank you for joining our online community!

We’ll be in touch soon with more Nature Conservancy news, updates and exciting stories.

Please leave this field empty

I'm already on the list!

Read our privacy policy.