At 20, Nature Conservancy spreads its word across state

OXFORD The Nature Conservancy was once known primarily for its private-sector approach to conservation.
It would find out about sensitive natural areas and buy them or their development rights so they could be protected perpetually.
This year the worldwide organization is celebrating its Mississippi chapter’s 20th anniversary. Over the years, its approach has changed, and it now leverages its technical and scientific expertise by also supporting the efforts of both governments and other non-government organizations to preserve habitat for rare plants and animals.
“The Nature Conservancy in Mississippi has helped protect more than 130,000 acres of ecologically sensitive nature lands since 1989,” said Larry Jarrett of Pontotoc, one of the chapter’s trustees.
He and other Nature Conservancy leaders spoke Tuesday night at Off Square Books in Oxford at the first of several receptions the organization is holding around the state for members and others interested in its work.
The second is tonight at Tupelo Country Club from 5 to 7 p.m.
“In the past we just did one event in the Jackson area,” said state director Jim Murriam. “It didn’t get us out in front of a lot of our other donors, so we decided this year we’re doing six events across the state.”
In Northeast Mississippi, the Conservancy has preserved a site at the Coonewah Chalk Bluffs in Lee County to protect the endangered Price’s Potato Bean.
It has also worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to remove invasive plants from White’s Slough in Columbus and with the Tombigbee River Valley Water Management District and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality to rehabilitate banks of the Buttahatchie River.
Weyerhaeuser Corp. has partnered with The Nature Conservancy and Mississippi State University to oversee its preservation of Old Cove, a deep ravine in Webster County that hosts several rare species.
The Nature Conservancy also works with individual landowners to preserve ecologically important areas for future generations.
“We’re successful because we use non-confrontational, pragmatic solutions to conservation problems,” Jarrett said.

Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal