A recent 2,100-acre purchase of property in Southeast Mississippi by The Nature Conservancy offers promise of better hunting in the future by connecting over 450,000 acres of wildlife acquisition.

The acreage, adjacent to the Leaf and Pascagoula Rivers in George and Greene counties, connects the Desoto National Forest and the Pascagoula Wildlife Management Area and becomes the largest tract of contiguous protected lands in Mississippi.

Working closely with partners, including the private landowners, Mississippi Forestry Commission and the Forest Legacy Program, The Nature Conservancy’s goal is to preserve the land to benefit the people, forests, wildlife and waters of the Pascagoula River Basin.

The Nature Conservancy will work with the Mississippi Forestry Commission to establish a new state forest with this acquisition, and eventually turning management over to the Forestry Commission.

Conservancy spokesperson Lindsey Lemmons said that in keeping with the organization’s history in Mississippi, the land would likely be open to hunting and fishing.

“I can’t say when, and not right away, but just following what we’ve done in the past in Mississippi, yes, I would think it would,” she said. “One of the property that it connects to is the 70,000-acre Pascagoula River Wildlife Management Area, and that was a Conservancy purchase.

“Right now, we start the rehabilitation of the property and then we’ll transfer it to the Forestry Commission and decide how lands will be managed.”

Lemmons reiterated the biggest asset of the purchase is the formation of such a large contiguous protected area, which resembles the size of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (just over 500,000 acres).

“That’s a lot of protected, managed wildlife habitat,” she said. “A whole lot.”