Mississippi’s abundant forestlands represent over 60 percent of the total land base. Although many may think of the abundance of forested pine stands, the majority of Mississippi’s forest consist of hardwood and oak-pine mixed timber types. Almost 90 percent of these forested land are privately owned. These forested acres contribute to the state’s economy, often ranking as the second highest agricultural product creating over $1 billion in wages annually. In addition to the economic benefits, human health, aesthetics, habitat, ecosystem services, and recreational benefits of the forests are well documented and recognized. There are a multitude of programs and initiatives linked to ensuring that these resources are properly managed and will still be available for the public to enjoy in the future. Like many other states, however, Mississippi is witnessing changes to its landscapes. Over the past ten years Mississippi has lost approximately 350,000 acres of its forest lands.
The Mississippi Forest Action Plan represents over a two-year effort by the Mississippi Forestry Commission and numerous partners, agencies, organizations and individuals to identify and assess the main trends, conditions, and issues facing our vast forest resources today. The plan presents a broad overview of the state’s forests and forest resources as well as identify current and future strategies needed to address a variety of forest conditions in the state, regardless of ownerships.
Sustainably managing forests and conserving high priority forest ecosystems
Development around forested areas continues to increase the potential for catastrophic impacts from wildfires. Reducing or eliminating various fuels from the forest structure in cost effective ways is integral for the protection of Mississippi’s forest resources and the safety of persons and property. The One Message Many Voices campaign will help increase awareness among the general public and public officials about the need for prescribed burning for the benefit of ecosystem management and fuel reduction. Fire is critical for forest health and Certified Prescribed Burn Managers are an essential tool. Mississippi offers the Prescribed Burn Short Course twice a year. This training has the potential of increasing the number of Certified Prescribed Burners in the state.
Protecting forests against wildfire, invasive species, and other forest health issues
The federal renewable fuels standard calls for producing 30 percent of the nation’s energy from biomass by the year 2030. There is great potential for the development of energy from renewable natural resources in Mississippi. Effective utilization of the biomass resource and continued advancement in bio-fuel technology will help Mississippi address present and future energy challenges. The Mississippi Institute for Forest Inventory (MIFI) provides forest resource inventory information to biomass companies that are interested in operating in Mississippi.
Enhancing water quality and quantity while improving air quality and conserving energy
Across the state, native and non-native invasive flora and fauna have caused adverse impacts on the value, productivity, functionality and ecosystem services of forest communities on both public and private lands. Maintaining forest health is especially challenging on private, nonindustrial lands, which constitute the majority of our forest lands. Native species such as the southern pine beetle, which exhibits periodic outbreaks causing rapid and widespread tree mortality, pose a great threat.
Threats by other non-native species already established and spreading within the U.S. include the emerald ash borer, Asian longhorned beetle, Eurasian wood wasp, sudden oak death and thousand cankers disease (TCD) of black walnut. Non-native invasive plant species such as cogongrass, kudzu, Chinese tallow tree and others have exhibited escalating impacts as infestations have spread virtually unabated throughout the state for years, until some recent efforts of late. The fight should continue to be a joint effort among several partner agencies to implement education/awareness programs and on-the-ground control and eradication measures.
Best Management Practices
Mississippi’s best management practices (BMPs) program is non-regulatory. The agency responsible for BMPs policy development is the Mississippi Forestry Commission.
Click here to view the most recent BMPs recommendations on the state forestry agency website.