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Recreation resources must be promoted, protected

Mississippi needs a dedicated initiative to look out for its outdoors recreational resources. We seem to have one for every other aspect of life in this state, but when it comes to the wise use of our diverse natural resources we often only beat around the bushes until the ground is bare. From Momentum Mississippi to assist business and industrial economic development, to Keep Mississippi Beautiful maintaining highway right-of-ways clean and trash free, we have any number of enterprises created to garner public interest in the public good.

What Mississippi does not yet have is a clearly defined singular mission dealing with all the many aspects of the wonderful natural resources within the 47,233 square miles of this state’s boundaries. What we need is a consortium of forward thinking individuals and organizations to set up a tepee lodge to convene a pipe smoking. We can stretch out on our trade blankets and confer like they did at old fashioned frontier rendezvous.

Magnolia initiative smorgasbord

All across the Mississippi public awareness initiative landscape, a wide variety of special interest directives have popped up like wild red top clover or brown-eyed Susan flowers along the interstate highways. Among the long list of projects taking aim at wildlife, biodiversity, monitoring critical habitats, rivers and streams and other related concerns includes such programs as Acorns for Wildlife, Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy, Teaming with Wildlife, Adopt-A-Stream, Landowner Incentive Program, Deer Management Assistance Program and dozens of other programs, projects and proactive plans.

These initiatives are joined by a whole host of private endeavors by numerous non-profit conservation-oriented and special sector groups. This list is long, too. Every one of these groups has a plan of work focusing on their specific concerns, goals and objectives — such groups as the Mississippi Wildlife Federation, National Wild Turkey Federation, Ducks Unlimited, Mississippi Forestry Association, Quail Unlimited, Quality Deer Management Association, Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club, Mississippi Outfitters and Guides Association, Audubon Society and other groups conservative and liberal alike. All of these groups vie for our attention, sweat equity and our money. There are a lot of agendas being pushed around.

Certainly, there is considerably more work going on than these efforts alone. Almost every day I become aware of another such plan, project or group. Mississippi also has several state agencies dedicated to various outdoors projects, as well as our federal agencies working on projects all across the state. Add to these efforts the numerous regional convention and tourism bureaus promoting various aspects of outdoors recreation along with chambers of commerce, economic development offices, individual communities and other public and private entities.

Their goals are reflections of good and earnest measures for the most part to be sure. They represent hundreds of thousands of public and private dollars directed toward numerous targeted missions, as well as countless hours of work conducted by paid staffs and hordes of volunteers. The successes are many with sufficient work to go around for everybody.

However, we seem to lack a single broad umbrella under which to gather to share any global mission at the heart of all of these efforts. We have not concentrated enough on the big picture to impact all of the natural resources this state possesses. Maybe this is too much to ask for with lofty expectations set way too high beyond realistic achievement. To be certain though, plenty of dreams are made from this kind of stuff.

Individual stewardship first

It has long been known and understood that “corporate” efforts channeled by any public agency, private group or organization can never succeed where individual commitment falls short. Remember how it is said that discipline in our schools has to begin at home. So, too, it resides with us as individuals to pick up the gauntlet of due diligent cause in the judicious use of our state’s natural resources.

Before any outdoor sportsmen and women of this state take anything wild off of the land or out of the waters, they need to step up the plate to help insure there will always be more of what we already enjoy now so that future generations can also share in the bounty. We must also take every step to protect what we currently have, insuring that we do not degrade it either through sheer neglect or even abuse; the later being the greatest crime against nature.

Those with concern for these issues must work to defeat the ever prevalent modernistic philosophy exhibiting the forever expanding need for greed. This is born of an egotistical-based false sense of accomplishment in harvesting too much of the game and fish or other resources belonging to all citizens of the state. Often all this is without ever a thought to helping with restoration or enhancement of the resource.

Many times an excess of takings is confused with skill and personal pride. How many “trophy” bucks on the wall is enough to portray one as a craftsman at deer hunting? How many over-limit coolers of crappie does it take to confirm a master angler? Will anyone even know or care that some hunters slip extra ducks under the boat seat? What about shooting into a flock of wild turkeys taking out gobblers, jakes and hens with one blast? Is trespassing and poaching a given right to access “public” wildlife or fish no matter where game resides?

Does one more hardwood bottom replaced with rows of planted pines build up the wildlife habitat? Do we really need more shopping centers, condominium complexes or casinos? Do we allow developments too close to streams, rivers and lakes permitting soil disruption to damage our waterways? Are we not losing thousands of acres a year in Mississippi to the expansion of the human population or business interests?

These are tough economic development issues. As individuals does our stewardship extend to offering input, reaction or alternative plans? Do we strive to become engaged in the plans that impact the future care of our outdoor resources or do we sit back on our collective laurels and watch them being slowly diminished in value?

A fair and equitable balance exists in all of these issues. It is our responsibility and role to insure our participation in the process. Plenty of avenues exist for us all to get involved. We simply cannot sit on the sidelines and do nothing to protect this state’s outdoor natural resources that we so dearly love. It’s a vast resource base way too valuable to neglect. So stand up, join up, and speak out. Generations ahead will applaud our efforts to commit to conservation.

John J. Woods of Clinton is an award-winning outdoor freelance journalist. His column appears monthly in the Mississippi Business Journal. Contact him at johnjwoods@hotmail.com.

About John Woods

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