JACKSON, Miss. — A $5 million donation from the state’s newest major industry will help preserve an environmentally stressed waterway in southwest Mississippi.
Continental AG announced this week that it has given $5 million to Wildlife Mississippi to finance that organization’s purchase of 1,000 acres along Bayou Pierre west of Hazlehurst in Copiah County. One parcel was purchased from a timber company and one was bought from an individual, said James Cummins, executive director of Wildlife Mississippi
The waterway, which empties into the Mississippi River in Claiborne County, is the only home of a fish listed as federally threatened, the bayou darter.
Cummins said his group plans to improve habitat by planting native hardwood trees on part of the land which is now planted in pines, and by removing invasive species from areas where there are now hardwoods. The initial restoration work is expected to take place over the winter and spring.
Wildlife Mississippi already owns an adjoining 320 acres.
“What we’re trying to do is build a larger conservation area around Bayou Pierre,” Cummins said.
The stream is plagued by erosion because the channel of the Mississippi is deepening, and Bayou Pierre is carving out a deeper channel of its own to get down to the lower level of the river it feeds into. That’s causing erosion of Bayou Pierre’s banks, harming the stream’s water quality and further stressing the bayou darter. The problem has been going on for years, exacerbated by agriculture and gravel mining in the Bayou Pierre watershed. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been trying to organize landowners to improve the situation, and Wildlife Mississippi’s entry is one response.
Cummins said Wildlife Mississippi was approached by Continental even before the company announced its $1.45 billion tire plant near Clinton in February, and Continental said the transaction was completed in April.
“It’s important for Continental to work with local environmental groups to conserve the areas where we’re investing,” Continental Project Manager Grant Bovim said in a statement.
Continental ultimately plans 2,500 jobs at the Hinds County site.
Wildlife Mississippi will retain the land and is considering public access to the tract in the future. Cummins said the group would like to encourage canoeing and kayaking in Bayou Pierre.