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Private lands program

A great source of personal pride and individual accomplishment is the ownership of private land.  Everyone who owns land either for a revenue-generation source or for a family recreational venue wants to maximize the potential of that property.  Well, just maybe you are not sure exactly what to do in order to achieve the greatest potential from your land.  

Lucky for private landowners in the Magnolia State, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks has initiated a free program of assistance called the Private Lands Habitat Program (PLHP).  The plan is to provide technical assistance to private landowners that want to start the process of creating quality habitat by developing an active land management plan.  


Program Goals

“The goal of the program is to engage landowners in active habitat management.  Approximately 80 percent of Mississippi land is privately owned and many landowners want to manage wildlife on their property but do not know where to start,” says Scott Edwards, wildlife biologist for the PLHP in charge of the central counties of the state program.  

With biologists in place to handle all of the state from three different division locations, the Private Lands Habitat Program biologists will make site visits to work hand-in-hand with landowners.  When on site, the biologists will make working recommendations that the landowners can take under consideration for proper implementation.  This advice includes a lot of options depending on what specific needs the property might have including the resources already available on the site.  


Habitat Management Options and Benefits 

Once the biologist inspects the property, he can prescribe a variety of tools to help improve the habitat.  These options might include prescribed fire, strip disking, herbicide chemical applications, tree planting, planting native warm season grasses, quality vegetation management, select timber cutting, creating field buffers and controlling invasive plant species.  

The PLHP biologists may also create a written land management plan outlining what specific management activities they recommend the landowner undertake. 

These are common practices in habitat management that can result in improved habitat resources that in turn create positive results for wildlife as well.  These land management tools can benefit the white-tailed deer, wild turkey, bobwhite quail and migrating waterfowl, both ducks and geese, as well as the mourning dove.  Habitat enhancements also greatly benefit small game species, too, like squirrels and rabbits.  Better habitats make better wildlife. 

For those landowners interested in the growing recreational sport of enjoying the non-game species of song birds for bird watching, or non-consumptive wildlife observation and even wildlife photography, these habitat improvement options will also help create these opportunities. 

When possible the PLHP biologists may also help private landowners with procedures to secure cost-share assistance to carry out various types of land management practices.  From time to time, various resources exist to help private landowners pursue their management goals.  

Remember, though, that usually these funds are offered only when the landowner is willing to provide his share of the funding, which often amounts to as much as half the cost of the land management project.  Still this is usually a really good deal considering how expensive some projects could be.  Seeking cost-share funding is definitely worth checking into. 


Make the Move to Better Habitat

Private landowners will really be missing out if they do not take full advantage of the Private Lands Habitat Program.  Even if you believe you have been doing everything possible and in the right manner to improve the habitat on your land, it still would be nice to have the input of a qualified professional biologist to confirm your progress or to suggest other possible ideas or projects.  Remember the service is free, too. 

Current contact information for the PLHP for the northern sector of the state is John Gruchy at john.gruchy@gail.com or phone (662) 274-1050; central counties contact Scott Edwards at sedwards@cfr.msstate.edu, (662) 325-7490; or, Russ Walsh for the southern counties at wrwalsh@gmail.com or phone (601) 408-3399.  

“For FY2009, we accomplished a tremendous amount of habitat work for three biologists covering the whole state.  We conducted more than 220 site visits.  We acquired more than $170,000 in contributions and grants for habitat management projects and educational opportunities for private landowners.  Add to all that the delivery of 47 public presentations about habitat management, 18 habitat related field days, and 17 articles published about habitat management reported,” said PLHP northern sector biologist John Gruchy. 

I’m pretty certain these guys can answer your questions up front and then you can decide if an on-site visit is what you need.  If you want to maximize the potential for your private property in terms of a quality habitat that can be created to benefit all wildlife, then give this program a try.  I seriously doubt you will be disappointed. 


Dr. John J. Woods, Ph.D., is vice president in charge of economic development and training, Eagle Ridge Conference and Training Center, the Workforce Development Center and contract training services at Hinds Community College in Raymond.

About John Woods

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