Places We Protect

Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center


A gopher tortoise hatchling
Gopher Tortoise Hatchling Camp Shelby has a gopher tortoise nursery. © Rebecca Stowe/The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy has partnered with Camp Shelby since 2000 to protect habitat and species of concern.




One of the largest National Guard installations in the United States is located just outside Hattiesburg, Mississippi, with land owned by the Mississippi Military Department, Departments of the Army and Defense, and the U.S. Forest Service.

Home to some of the state's rarest plants and animals, a cooperative agreement between The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Army allows scientists to study these species and their habitats, and to remove non-native species such as cogongrass. Specifically, TNC staff perform field surveys for rare species and communities, evaluate habitat quality, and implement research and monitoring projects to improve management strategies for rare, threatened and endangered species. Staff also researches how prescribed fire affects habitats, gopher tortoise behavior, how military activities affect gopher tortoises, and much more.



Explore our work in this region

A large tortoise moves across a dirt path.
Gopher Tortoise A gopher tortoise navigates its way along the forest floor. © Karine Aigner



Camp Shelby is within the longleaf pine historic range, which currently covers only three percent across the southeastern U.S. 

More than 80 rare plant species occur at Camp Shelby, which is also home to several state champion trees: slash pine, sweetbay magnolia and redbay. The location is also home to over 20 species of orchids and more than five species of magnolia. Louisiana quillwort, a plant species listed as endangered, is found along small streams. Other common plants include:

  • Dwarf huckleberry, Elliott's blueberry
  • Grasses such as bluestem, toothache grass, Pineywoods dropseed
  • Sunflowers, black-eyed susans, goldenrod and wild daisys
  • Legumes such as butterfly pea, partridge pea, goat's rue and ticktrefoil
  • Gopher apple
  • Wild petunias, St. John's wort


Gopher tortoises, a federally threatened species, dig burrows used by over 300 types of animals. The black pinesnake has been found in only 14 southern counties. Other animal species of interest include:

  • Camp Shelby burrowing crayfish (found only at this site and protected by a Candidate Conservation Agreement)
  • Arogos skipper
  • Mobile crayfish
  • Ornate chorus frog
  • Red salamander
  • Mole kingsnake
  • Gulf crayfish snake
  • Eastern coral snake
  • Eastern diamond-backed rattlesnake
  • Cooper's hawk
  • Bachman's sparrow
  • Henslow's sparrow
  • Southeastern kestrel
  • Rafineque's big-eared bat

More common residents of Camp Shelby include bobwhite quail, white-tailed deer, black racers and coyotes.

A group of military personnel and civilians pose for a picture.
Camp Shelby The Mississippi National Guard's Environmental Team was recognized for excellence and exceptional leadership in natural resource conservation. © Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center


TNC staff members work closely with the Mississippi Army National Guard, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Mississippi Natural Heritage Program, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks as well as, local and regional universities.

Contact Melinda Lyman, project coordinator/botanist for more information on TNC's work at the Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center.

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