Mississippi Wildlife Action Plan
By the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies
The Mississippi Department of Wildlife Fisheries and Parks coordinated the development of the state’s wildlife action plan with the help of internal committees, a large statewide advisory committee, and an extensive team of experts. The goal of the plan is to provide a guide for the effective and efficient long-term conservation of Mississippi’s biodiversity.
Expert surveys and data from the Mississippi Natural Heritage Program led to the identification of 297 species of greatest conservation need, as well as their habitats. Sixty-four habitat subtypes were grouped into inland terrestrial, flowing water, standing water and marine categories.
Habitat subtypes were prioritized according to the number of species of greatest conservation need found in each subtype, and by the degree of imperilment of those species. Our collaborators helped identify 23 general threats and 30 potential conservation actions needed to abate the greatest threats to wildlife and habitats. Mississippi’s strategy represents a habitat-based approach to conserve rare and declining, as well as common, species.
As more than two-thirds of the state is in private ownership, conservation management programs, which are coordinated through state, Federal and non-profit organizations, are geared toward private land stewardship. These include Farm Bill conservation programs, conservation easements, and cost-share and partner programs that benefit both game and non-game wildlife. The U.S. Forest Service holds the largest percentage of public land and, together with federal wildlife refuges and state wildlife management areas, these lands serve as important habitat for many of the endangered species in the state.
Lying directly above the geographic center of the Gulf of Mexico, Mississippi is in the main flyway for transgulf bird migrants. Black bear wander the bottomlands along the Mississippi, Pearl and Pascagoula Rivers. The Gulf sturgeon spends much of its life in marine environments of the Mississippi Sound, but moves to the freshwater of the Pearl and Pascagoula Rivers to spawn.
Primary Challenges to Conserving Wildlife in Mississippi
Mississippi identified 23 statewide priority threats to the identified species of greatest conservation need. While the threats vary greatly among the diverse habitat types, urban and suburban development, incompatible forestry practices and stream channel modification were high-priority threats for many of the habitats. One goal of the strategy is to engage all stakeholders in balancing wildlife conservation needs with ongoing economic activities.
Urban and suburban development includes primary home construction as well as development of associated infrastructure (e.g., subdivision roads and driveways, sewer and stormwater utilities). Impacts may include habitat destruction, disturbance, fragmentation and introduction of invasive species.
Incompatible forestry practices involve poor forestry best-management-practices implementation and site management activities that result in altered structure and composition of adjacent natural habitats or degraded stream or wetland habitats. Examples include excessive chemical use, effects of some harvesting equipment, significant site alteration prior to planting (bedding) and excessively high stocking densities.
Channel modification includes construction and use of ditches, levees, dikes, drainage tiles, flow diversion, dredging, channelization, filling of wetlands, destabilization of streambanks or channels (head-cutting), and other alterations to stream channels and natural flow regimes.
Working Together for Mississippi’s Wildlife
Representatives from over 290 natural resources agencies, conservation organizations, agriculture and forest products industries, technical experts, conservation educators, and academics were invited to participate on the Advisory Committee. This group, which included 179 active members, met quarterly to review and develop sections of the plan. Their role was to provide input and advice during the development of the plan, to recommend existing plans or strategies for incorporation, and to review and comment on drafts of the plan prior to submission. All meeting agendas and minutes were posted on the plan webpage, and the public was encouraged to participate.
Individual briefings and group presentations were provided to interested individuals, organizations and agencies throughout the development of the plan. A promotional brochure was used for presentations, and was distributed to potential stakeholders and the public. A website served as the primary method of providing material to the public and stakeholders for additional review and comments. Finally, news media throughout the state reported on the development of the plan.
The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies represents all of North America’s fish and wildlife agencies, promotes sound management and conservation, and speaks with a unified voice on important fish and wildlife issues.