Home to a number of remarkable plants and animals—including the dusky gopher frog, the rarest in Mississippi—Old Fort Bayou is an excellent example of a coastal plain ecosystem.
Situated on 1,700 acres just inland from the Gulf of Mexico, this was Mississippi's first coastal mitigation bank when it was acquired in 2002. Working with other organizations such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy can significantly increase the benefits of mitigation banking, where wetlands or other resources are restored, created or enhanced when similar areas are unavoidably impacted. Organizations in need of mitigation credits can work with the Conservancy to preserve and restore a variety of locations in South Mississippi.
Through continued cooperation of businesses, individuals and organizations, we are making a positive impact on the health of our coastal ecology.
One of the major objectives for establishing the Old Fort Bayou Mitigation Bank was to create habitat suitable for the critically endangered Mississippi sandhill crane. Only 110 individuals are left in the wild. These birds prefer open pine savanna, and less than three percent of this habitat remains from its original range across the Gulf Coastal Plain.
Spring 2010 marked the first time that a pair of sandhill cranes nested on Old Fort Bayou since the Conservancy acquired the property in 1997. The cranes, a 27-year-old male and an 8-year-old captive bred female produced one egg. The nest was approximately 4 feet in diameter and is raised about 1 foot above the surrounding swamp. The cranes built the nest in standing water for protection from predators. One crane sits on the nest while the other forages for food. Ongoing restoration and stewardship practices at the Old Fort Bayou Mitigation Bank are expected to attract these and other cranes to the site.