The Forest Legacy Program was authorized by the 1990 Food, Agriculture, Conservation and Trade Act to identify and protect environmentally important, private forestlands threatened with conversion to non-forest uses. The Forest Legacy Program is a USDA Forest Service program in partnership with Mississippi that will help support local efforts to protect environmentally sensitive, privately owned forest lands threatened by conversion to non-forest use through land acquisition and conservation easements.
The total area of private forestland in the U.S. has gradually declined since the mid-20th century. Increasing population and urban centers are adding demands on our forests. Projections indicate that 11 percent of private forests are likely to see dramatic increases in housing density in the next three decades. Development results in the loss of forests, smaller areas of intact forest, smaller parcel sizes and isolation of forest fragments. These changes alter the ability of private forests to provide many ecological, economic and social benefits.
Mississippi is no exception to this national trend. Our state is rich in forest resources with 19.8 million acres of forestland covering 65 percent of the state. Almost eighty percent is owned by private, non-industry landowners. These forests supply timber products, provide wildlife habitat and watershed protection and have recreation and aesthetic values. However, increasing fragmentation and parcelization of forests across our state has resulted in the loss of these valuable ecosystems.
The Assessment Of Need (AON) identifies areas of the Mississippi such as the Pineywoods region of south Mississippi, the Jackson area and northeast Mississippi where important natural forest communities exist on private lands that are potentially threatened by conversion from urban and suburban growth or other threats. The AON recommends these areas of the state be designated as Forest Legacy Areas so that willing landowners may nominate their property as a possible Forest Legacy Tract.
Grant Coordination Forester
660 North Street, Suite 300
Jackson, MS 39202