A Legacy of Land Protection
TNC partners with the state of Mississippi to conserve critical landscapes.
Time and time again, The Nature Conservancy and the State of Mississippi have teamed up to conserve and protect critical landscapes within the Magnolia State. The partnership really kicked off in 1974 when TNC made its then-largest land purchase of 35,000 acres along the Pascagoula River. All of that land eventually created the Pascagoula Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and is now managed by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP).
That land along the Pascagoula River is now buffered by almost 70,000 acres of public and private protected land. And through continuous work with not only the state of Mississippi, but also with nature-loving donors, TNC has been able to conserve it.
If you’re not too familiar with the area, the Pascagoula River, or the “Singing River,” and its watershed combine for one of the most unique areas in the nation. The river itself is one of the largest undammed rivers in the contiguous United States, making it utterly free-flowing. That can’t be said about too many rivers.
On top of that, the watershed is home to at least 327 species of birds, as well as a multitude of reptiles—including the yellow-blotched sawback turtle, which is exclusive to the area.
“This is a beautiful, beautiful place. We love the rivers, the lakes, the bayous, and everything else,” donors Jane and Grayson Rayborn said. “We want to preserve not just the habitat for the creatures, but the beauty of the place for future generations.”
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Conservation of the area also means cleaner water as unregulated development could contribute to pollution, sedimentation, and other unhealthy changes to the river.
“Incompatible development along the river can really lead to some problems,” TNC’s Becky Stowe, who was recently honored as a Pascagoula River Basin Ambassador for her continued work in the area, explained.
THE GRIFFITH TRACT
TNC continues to work daily to conserve and preserve one of the most—if not the most—beautiful states in America. Other recent acquisitions include 2,100 acres along the Leaf and Pascagoula Rivers in the George and Greene County region of the Pascagoula River Basin in 2016, as well as another 1,232 acres along the Pascagoula River in 2018.
The 2016 acquisition connected more than 450,000 contiguous acres between the De Soto National Forest and the Pascagoula Wildlife Management Area, making it the largest tract of contiguous protected lands in Mississippi.
The 2018 acquisition was a tract owned by 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.” Hence, the area was named Griffith Tract.
The Griffith Tract boats a mile of river frontage and a hidden cemetery with a Revolutionary War veteran. 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 Dr. Griffith’s vision for the property,” Stowe said. “and at the same time add a critical link to the protection of the river.”
The property has been added to the Pascagoula River WMA and is managed by MDFWP. The tract connects two existing pieces of the WMA, giving better access and bolstering the connectivity of protected lands.
These acquisitions involved many partners, including the Mississippi Forestry Commission, U.S. Forest Service Forest Legacy Program, Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, Mississippi Dept. of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Gulf Restoration Benefit Fund, and the Secretary of State’s office.
TNC has also taken this large-scale land protection regimen to other parts of the state, including nearly 18,000 acres in the Mississippi Delta purchased at the tail end of 2018.
From the Mississippi Delta to the Pascagoula River, TNC 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.