JACKSON — In an open-house meeting this past week, where members of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service explained the possibilities of a proposed National Wildlife Refuge in the Jackson area, little opposition was heard.
“It was definitely more positive,” Connie Dickard of the USFWS said. “Some folks have asked who would be against this.”
The proposed urban refuge is located in Rankin County and is bordered by Lakeland Drive on the south end, Spillway Road to the north and the Pearl River on the west side. It could contain up to 5,000, acres with about 2,700 of that currently owned by the Mississippi Department of Transportation.
According to the USFWS, hunting, fishing, wildlife watching and other opportunities could all be offered by the approval of the plan.
Louie Miller of the Sierra Club said his organization stands behind the proposal and feels it is a unique opportunity, because of its urban location and the fact it will offer more access to the Pearl River, a place he knows well.
Miller said he began canoeing the area when he was 6 years old and feels it is an environment that should be enjoyed by everyone.
“For years we’ve tried to figure out how to protect this area for future generations,” Miller said. “Hopefully, this will preserve it in perpetuity.”
Dorothy Moore of Jackson also attended the meeting. Moore is best known for her 1976 hit song “Misty Blue,” but friends and relatives also know her as an avid angler.
Moore said she supported the project because it would offer additional access to the Pearl River, but she added that it would be an asset to the Jackson area and draw more tourism.
Mike Davis, who lives in a neighborhood that borders the proposed area, wasn’t as upbeat about the idea.
“That area has a huge deer population,” Davis said. “What is their plan to manage them?”
Davis said he once hunted a 4,000-acre lease within the proposed borders, but he lost hunting rights to much of it when the Mississippi Department of Transportation purchased the 2,700 acres. Since then, he said deer in the area have become a growing problem, and he has seen an increase in vehicle collisions with them.
“If they have the idea that they are going to control the population with bow hunts, I just don’t see them doing it,” Davis said.
Because the proposal is in such an early stage, nothing is set, but it appears hunters may get to enjoy the refuge and help manage the deer herd.
“A lot of folks don’t know there was hunting on this property already,” Dickard said.
A preliminary plan for the refuge is expected to be drafted in early 2014 and released to the public in April.