Mississippians offer input on future of state wildlife area

February 28, 2022 GMT

CRAWFORD, Miss. (AP) — Residents are weighing in on an attempt to return a public wildlife management area in eastern Mississippi to private ownership.

The state purchased most of the property for the Black Prairie Wildlife Management Area from a private landowner in the late 1990s, The Columbus Dispatch reported.

The land offers public hunting and fishing and is “some of the last intact native prairie” left in the state, said Russ Walsh, wildlife bureau chief for Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks.

State Sen. Chuck Younger, a Republican from Lowndes County who sits on the Senate Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Committee, believes the WMA is underutilized and poorly managed.

“There’s a lot of good things about it, but there are a lot of damn negative things about it, too,” Younger said.

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There aren’t a lot of people hunting on the land, and the state has allowed much of it to “grow up in thickets,” the senator said.

“It’s just a lot of waste,” he added.

From Lowndes County’s perspective, “it’s lost revenue,” County Administrator Jay Fisher said.

Fisher says his office has received more than 700 responses after a notice about a public hearing was printed. The overwhelming majority of them are from people who want to see the property remain public, he said.

The hearing is set for Monday. The county doesn’t have the authority to take the land out of public hands, but it can make a recommendation to the state.