A stretch of the Pascagoula River along the Griffith Tract in Mississippi.
The Pascagoula River TNC has protected important land along the river © Rebecca Stowe/TNC

Stories in Mississippi

A Legacy of Land Protection

TNC partners with the state of Mississippi to conserve critical landscapes.

The Nature Conservancy has a long and rich history conserving important landscapes across Mississippi. In 1974, TNC made its then-largest land purchase of 35,000 acres along the Pascagoula River. That property was the beginning of the Pascagoula Wildlife Management Area (WMA)—now managed by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks—which conserved critical habitat along the largest undammed river in the continental United States. The Pascagoula River corridor is now buffered by almost 70,000 acres of public and private conservation lands.

Working with the State of Mississippi on large-scale land acquisitions has proven time and again to be a successful model for conservation, and TNC has continued partnering with the state on large-scale land protection in recent years. In 2018, TNC and the state teamed up and successfully purchased nearly 18,000 acres in the Mississippi Delta.

Active conservation in the Pascagoula continues, too, as we wrapped up another acquisition of 1,232 acres to add to the Pascagoula WMA in 2019.

Mississippi delta wetland with cypress knees sticking up from the water.
Mississippi Delta Wetland These wetlands serve as critical habitat for waterfowl and other species. © The Nature Conservancy

THE PHIL BRYANT WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA

In 2018, The Nature Conservancy and the State of Mississippi teamed up to purchase of 17,816 acres adjacent to the Mahannah Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Issaquena and Warren counties. Formerly owned and managed by the lumber company Anderson Tully, this land will ultimately become the Phil Bryant WMA, protecting a unique landscape of one of the largest and most diverse bottomland hardwood forests in the Mississippi Delta.

The forest provides habitat to many species, including the Louisiana black bear and more than 200 species of migrating birds. This project will also help maintain adequate clean and abundant water supplies essential for populations of fish and other aquatic species.

Conserving habitat is important, but so is providing outdoor recreation to the surrounding community. This does both.

Associate State Director, Mississippi

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Only 2 percent of the Mississippi Delta’s original bottomland hardwood forests remain, and The Nature Conservancy felt this property represented an opportunity to conserve a large continuous tract of critically important habitat while also increasing recreational opportunities for Mississippians. “Conserving habitat is important,” says Associate State Director Alex Littlejohn, “but so is providing outdoor recreation to the surrounding community. This does both.”

This property offers a unique balance of flooded timber and cypress swamps that provide habitat for some of the Mississippi’s largest wintering waterfowl concentrations. With this acquisition, Mississippians will gain access to nearly 18,000 acres, bringing more hunting and fishing opportunities and associated revenue to the surrounding communities. When combined with the acreage of the adjacent Mahannah WMA, this area will boast over 30,000 acres of contiguous wetland habitat. 

“This is the largest conservation purchase in Mississippi in the last 40 years,” says Littlejohn. “It was a uniquely rare opportunity to preserve an iconic piece of the Mississippi Delta.”

Overlooking the Pascagoula River at sunset.
Pascagoula Overlook Overlooking the Pascagoula River at sunset. © Rebecca Stowe/TNC

THE GRIFFITH TRACT

TNC remains committed to this iconic southern river. In 2016, with the help of the Mississippi Forestry Commission, U.S. Forest Service and many other partners, TNC acquired 2,100 acres along the Leaf and Pascagoula Rivers in the George and Greene County region of the Pascagoula River Basin, connecting more than 450,000 contiguous acres between the De Soto National Forest and the Pascagoula Wildlife Management Area, now the largest tract of contiguous conserved lands in Mississippi. 

In 2018, The Nature Conservancy acquired 1,232 acres along the Pascagoula River from Dr. Charles Griffith, who was inspired after seeing a documentary about the Pascagoula River to buy his own piece of land on Mississippi’s “Singing River.”

The tract of forested wetlands boasts a mile of river frontage and a hidden Revolutionary War cemetery. TNC brought Dr. Griffith to the table with the state of Mississippi, but sadly he passed away before the deal was finalized. “I’m pleased we were able to fulfill the landowner’s vision for the property,” says Rebecca Stowe, director of forest programs for TNC in Mississippi, “and at the same time add a critical link to the protection of the river.”

The property will become part of the Pascagoula River Wildlife Management Area (WMA), managed by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks (MDFWP). The tract connects two existing pieces of the WMA, giving better access and bolstering the connectivity of protected lands.

The acquisition involved many partners, including the Mississippi Forestry Commission, U.S. Forest Service Forest Legacy Program, Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Gulf Restoration Benefit Fund, and the Secretary of State’s office.

From the Mississippi Delta to the Pascagoula River, The Nature Conservancy has built a reputation as a go-to partner for conservation. For decades, TNC has been actively conserving and connecting crucial natural treasures in Mississippi.