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Mississippi’s wetlands grows

The state of Mississippi acquired 2,483 acres of marshland at the mouth of the Pearl River in Hancock County on Wednesday.

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann announced the acquisition as a commitment to “maintain the culture of the coast that it shares with its inhabitants, its marshes and tidelands.”

The land is known as the “Baldwin Property” and Mississippi has been working with the family of landowners for approximately five years to form a deal.

Hosemann said “not one penny of state dollars was used on the purchase.” H said it was funded through the Coastal Impact Assistance Program (CIAP) and the Nature Conservancy.

CIAP raised $554,758.38 in funds for the acquisition and the Nature Conservancy raised $613,110 as a part of its efforts dedicated to preserve coastal lands. The total purchase price of the “Baldwin Property” was $1,167,868.38, which Hosemann said is less than the land’s appraised value.

Including this purchase, Mississippi now owns more than 36,000 acres of wetlands.

This property is in the Coastal Preserves, and the Department of Marine Resources’ Coastal Preserves program provides effective stewardship of Mississippi’s most sensitive coastal areas.

The Secretary of State’s office is an active partner with the Coastal Preserves program that was established through a cooperative agreement where Mississippi Department of Marine Resources’ Director Jamie Miller said both agree to “effectively preserve, conserve, restore and manage selective coastal wetland ecosystems.”

“Tidal marshes like this are the key nursery ground for shrimp, crab, speckled trout, all those things that we enjoy from an environmental perspective and also an economic perspective,” Miller said.

“There is no greater benefit than having these areas watched over and managed well. By owning it, we will be better able to manage and enhance those functions.

“What we can’t do is sit idly by and watch this marsh retreat back to the upland,” Miller said. As the marsh retreats, it has a long-term impact on the growth of seafood, he said.

“So much of our commercial seafood industry, recreational industry … starts right there in that marsh,” Miller said.

Acquiring the land will benefit not only the fishing industry on the Coast, but the entire state. With almost every state involved in gaming, Hosemann said acquiring more wetlands is important to Mississippi’s economy and the impact should be felt long-term across the state.

Diamondhead Mayor Tommy Schafer said the acquisition “plays right in to some of the ecotourism development that we (Diamondhead) have on the horizon.” He said the acquisition is critical in expanding what the newly incorporated city is planning for its future.

Praising the acquisition, Bay St. Louis Mayor Les Fillingame said, “It’s a tremendous endeavor to embrace our natural resources, I think that’s one of our biggest assets on the coast.”

State Sen. Tommy Gollott said he “always pushes legislation to do things like this for the people of the State of Mississippi” and for the recreational hunters and fishermen. “It enhances our position in the U.S.,” Gollott said.

“We have so many things to offer and we need to express that to all,” he said. “We really are growing.”