Mississippi wildlife officials are hoping to announce soon a closing of the deal that could be the state’s last chance of obtaining a big block of prime Delta hunting land for public access.

Through the Nature Conservancy, the MDWFP would buy 17,000-acres of land adjacent to one of its existing wildlife management areas, Mahannah WMA, mostly in Issaquena County with some in Warren County, from longtime owner, Anderson-Tully Lumber Company.

Anderson-Tully in May began advising hunting clubs with leased lands within the area that their leases were terminating immediately and personal property must be removed.

The possibility of a new — and what would be the second largest WMA in the state — sounds great to many, but it would end decades of traditions for other hunters with existing camps in the area. 

The Vicksburg Post reported that the letters informed three clubs — Ten Point, Buck Track and Buck Bayou — that they would be given 60 days from May 15 to “remove all personally owned buildings, structures or other equipment from the property,” and that, “access to the property during the 60-day period shall be for the sole purpose of removing such personal property and for no other purpose.” 

All three of the clubs are within the 17,000 acres in the proposed sale, which is within the Chronic Wasting Disease Management Zone (more on that later).

Anderson-Tully announced in March that it was selling its lumber mill in Vicksburg, but sent letters to leaseholders, including an estimated 15 to 20 hunting clubs in the area, stating that the sale would not include the property nor would it affect the leases. Less than two months later, the notices of termination of leases were sent.

If the MDWFP does acquire the property, agency officials say it would be unlawful for it to lease the land for private hunting clubs, and would be used only for public access hunting.

“What this acquisition would mean to the state is we will have in perpetuity 17,000 acres adjacent to an existing WMA (wildlife management area),” Larry Castle, director of technical programs for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, told The Clarion-Ledger. “We will be able to manage it and provide opportunity.

“This is probably the last opportunity to acquire a contiguous tract of land of this size in the south Delta. It will be a milestone of true conservation. This will be something people will look at in the future and say, ‘Wow.’”

Castle also said that a third party, the Nature Conservancy, a private conservation group with a history of helping the MDWFP acquire lands, brought the possibility of purchase to the agency.

The Conservancy was instrumental in helping MDWFP purchase the land in Southeast Mississippi that is now known as the Pascagoula WMA. The Conservancy purchased 32,000 acres in 1976 from the Pascagoula Hardwood Company, and later sold it to the state. 

More recently, the Conservancy purchased approximately 2,100 acres in Green and George counties, which is later turned over to the Mississippi Forestry Commission. That tract connected the DeSoto National Forest and the Pascagoula WMA, providing the state with 450,000 acres of contiguous conserved lands.