- Associated Press - Sunday, March 9, 2014

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) - A federal project to improve the ecosystem along the Upper Black Creek Watershed is getting underway in Mississippi.

The Hattiesburg American reports (https://hatne.ws/1iqkn5j ) that the private-public initiative is aimed at improving and protecting water quality and wildlife habitat, while mitigating wildfire threats. The project is spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and the U.S. Forest Service,

The $1.76 million project will promote best-management practices addressing water quality problems and endangered or threatened species of wildlife in Mississippi counties along the Black Creek corridor and in the De Soto National Forest.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service program will assist non-industrial, private forest landowners in establishing good conservation practices, while the Forest Service will do those practices on the properties that it manages.

“Our delivery system will be through the local (Water and Soil Conservation) county offices that are located in the watershed,” said Wesley Kerr, NRCS South Mississippi area conservationist. “Landowners will have an opportunity to make an application, and we will service that application based on the use, whether it’s forest land, pasture land or crop land. We would evaluate their land to assist them in identifying their resource problems, whether that’s soil erosion as it relates to water quality issues, whether you’re talking about helping wildlife habitat management, whether you’re talking about doing things to enhance threatened and endangered species.

The application period has not opened yet, Kerr said. Notification will be issued at the county level.

Jimmy Mordica, timber management administrator with the De Soto Ranger District, said the two-pronged, public-private approach was a smart step.

“These restoration projects and protection projects don’t stop at a boundary (between private and federal forest land),” he said. “Where you have federal lands and private lands, whether it’s invasive species control, like ‘cogon’ grass, they don’t stop at the boundary just because there’s a boundary. So, we’re working together with landowners and the federal government to help eradicate those things.

“Same thing with fire control. A wildfire doesn’t stop at the boundary, so we’re trying to work to reduce fuels and help those landowners get all those benefits and manage the forest all at the same time.”

Mordica said the project, known as the Chiefs’ Joint Landscape Restoration Partnership, builds on a proposal submitted by the De Soto Ranger District in fiscal 2012 that would have affected about 10,000 acres along the Black Creek corridor in Forrest and Perry counties.

That proposal was rolled into the expanded project, which will also impact private and public tracts in Lamar, Pearl River, Stone, George and Jackson counties, as well as smaller areas in Marion and Jefferson Davis counties.


Information from: The Hattiesburg American, https://www.hattiesburgamerican.com

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