Membership Dollars at Work: Wildlife Mississippi...An Interview with Clarke Reed
Here, Clarke Reed, the Chairman of the Mississippi Fish and Wildlife Foundation, gives Wildlife Mississippi (WM) Magazine an interview about the new organization and how it membership dollars have been spent during its first year of operation.
WM: What is the Mississippi Fish and Wildlife Foundation?
Reed: In 1990 Delta Wildlife Foundation was founded and since that time has enjoyed tremendous success. Now, Mississippians had the vision and dedication to create the Mississippi Fish and Wildlife Foundation, or Wildlife Mississippi as it is commonly called, so they and others could do more for conservation. The Foundation, is a low-overhead, no frills organization which was founded to conserve, restore and enhance our fisheries and wildlife resources for the enjoyment and enrichment of all residents of Mississippi, and our visitors, and especially our children and grandchildren.
WM: You have said that Wildlife Mississippi has an "effective conservation philosophy." What do you mean by that?
Reed: Wildlife Mississippi is on the forefront of an effective conservation philosophy. It is based on three basic principles: 1) incentives conserve, restore and enhance fish, wildlife and plant habitat on private and public land, 2) conservation can thrive and protect private property rights and 3) more effective and responsive government policies will enable more on-the-ground conservation action to take place. Now is the time to establish an effective conservation philosophy that contains effective and cost-efficient programs to improve Mississippi's fish, wildlife and plant resources for years to come.
WM: As President, what will you gauge Wildlife Mississippi's success
on and how do you plan on maintaining an efficient program of work?
WM: To support its focused conservation goals, Wildlife Mississippi is concentrating its staff and fiscal resources on seven major initiatives. Could you please describe each initiative as well as the progress that has been made in each initiative to date?
Reed: In the Fisheries Management and Water Quality Initiative, there are almost 1 million anglers in the Magnolia State. To maintain quality recreational fishing opportunities, we will focus on conserving, restoring and enhancing fisheries habitat, fish populations and water quality. To date, we have promoted boating safety, specifically regarding alcohol use and the wearing of life preservers. We have also promoted the use of grass filter strips through the Conservation Reserve Program to improve water quality. Another very important component involves increasing boating access throughout Mississippi. We are currently inventorying boat ramps throughout Mississippi to determine boating access needs.
Regarding the Outdoor Recreation Initiative, safe, family-oriented outdoor recreational opportunities are important in enriching the lives of Mississippians, as well as promoting tourism. To ensure that quality outdoor recreation exists, we will focus on providing access to Mississippi's fish, wildlife and other outdoor resources. This could be in the form of new boat ramps or wildlife management areas, or improving our parks. This past year we have spent much time and energy on migratory bird regulations. We have worked to allow the top-sowing of wheat for dove hunting for the 1998/99 dove season. In addition, we have worked to extend the ending date of the duck season until January 31st for the 1998/99 duck season, which has been very popular.
As someone who has three kids, our Conservation Education Initiative is very important. We will focus on educating citizens about the conservation of fish, wildlife and plants through comprehensive programs targeted to citizens that are less likely to be connected to the land as well as the thousands of landowners that are interested in implementing more conservation practices on their land. Wildlife Mississippi Magazine is just one vehicle for education. In addition, we have started a "Conservation Corner" column in daily and weekly newspapers in Mississippi; we are currently running in 53 papers.
The Migratory Bird and Wetland Habitat Initiative is very important since seventy-five percent of America's remaining wetlands are on private lands. It is clear that both coastal and freshwater wetlands conservation cannot be limited to just public holdings. Realizing that most migratory birds use wetlands, we will focus on habitat conservation, restoration and enhancement activities. We will also develop quality nesting, migration and wintering habitat for migratory birds, including waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors, swallows, orioles, hummingbirds and warblers. We helped in writing the rules for the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program to cost-share with farmers and landowners on providing early water on wetlands for ducks, shorebirds and other migratory birds. And since the Executive Director of Wildlife Mississippi, James L. Cummins, is the Chairman of Board for the North American Waterfowl Federation, we have played a key role, internationally, in waterfowl conservation. In cooperation with Wildlife Services, inventorying beaver-pond impoundments to determine management needs for water control structures.
Regarding our Rare and Declining Species Initiative, we will work to improve the threatened and endangered fish, wildlife and plant resources of Mississippi before they reach either a status of endangered or threatened, thus making it unnecessary to list a
The Wildlife Habitat Initiative is the Foundation's broadest initiative. Recognizing that 75% of Mississippi's wildlife habitat are on private lands, we will focus on developing innovative approaches to vesting the private landowner in conserving, restoring and enhancing habitat, including backyard wildlife habitat, and the fish, wildlife and plants that depend on those habitats. To date, we have distributed 40 decoy deer to conservation officers in all 82 counties. In conjunction with Delta-View Nursery, provided 5,000 bottomland hardwood seedlings for reforestation on O'Keefe Wildlife Management Area. Our professional staff is constantly providing technical assistance to landowners regarding state and federal cost-share programs for conservation. We are providing 3,902 bags of seed totaling 184,855 pounds of seed (corn, sunflowers, sorghum, wheat and alfalfa) which were planted, or will plant, 6,526 acres of food plots for wildlife on public Wildlife Management Areas and National Wildlife Refuges in Mississippi in 1998 and 1999. And finally, we are developing a habitat seed program for private landowners in Mississippi.
WM: In addition to the six initiatives just described, Wildlife Mississippi is already working with the major conservation agencies that affect the state to pinpoint problems and target strategies. Please describe this important program.
Reed: The Fish and Wildlife Assessment will provide decision makers with policy recommendations that address the most pressing issues as well as working with agency personnel to affect internal policy and budgetary reforms. The Fish and Wildlife Assessment will highlight innovative programs and new ideas that will make conservation more effective, efficient and responsive to its constituencies. Through this assessment, Wildlife Mississippi will help shape public policy that promotes on-the-ground action to conserve not only Mississippi's, but our nation's valuable natural resources. We have worked with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks and the Office of the Governor to obtain more funds (approximately $400,000/year for Mississippi) for the Sport Fish Restoration Program through already existing taxes on motor boat fuel. Our Executive Director is serving as the Chairman of the Wildlife Subcommittee of the State Technical Committee of the Natural Resource Conservation Service. This Committee develops state-wide rules for the following programs: Conservation Reserve Program, Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Wetland Reserve Program and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program. Finally, we are working with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, the Office of Senator Thad Cochran, and the Office of Congressman Chip Pickering to clarify the baiting regulations for doves and moist soil areas for waterfowl.
WM: Is participation needed from other concerned conservationists?
WM: There has been a lot said about Mississippi not needing another environmental organization. Is this one really needed?
Reed: Wildlife Mississippi is much more than just another environmental organization. No other organization will use all of its resources on fish and wildlife conservation issues with a joint effort of sportsmen, industry, business, farmers, landowners and wildlife enthusiasts. The Foundation is something our grandchildren will be proud of.
WM: You have said that the organization will not be involved in confrontation issues and that you support balanced approaches to problem solving. Please elaborate.
Reed: We should seek to gain a public understanding of the trends and condition of environmental issues. We should also seek to develop a balanced understanding of the full dimensions of issues affecting our environment. Wildlife Mississippi should demonstrate leadership in conservation, utilization and stewardship in ways that balance local preferences and specific national needs.
Reed: Our approach will work because it depends on: 1) developing cooperative relationships among governments at all levels and with property owners; 2) assuring that resource improvement efforts include scientific integrity but also cost effectiveness and; 3) setting realistic goals so that improvement programs have credibility with property owners who will be willing to participate. Congressional Oversight Committees should review the progress of the changes in the affected Acts to maintain effective and efficient programs.
We have to get more people to feel a stake in our success and contribute to our overall strength. Wildlife Mississippi - and America - should be a leader in demonstrating how countries can have it all - a strong economy, a good environment, and a better future for their citizens. Capitalists and environmentalists should be partners, not adversaries.
Obviously, Wildlife Mississippi is much more than just another environmental organization. No other organization has focused on wildlife and land management issues with a joint effort of landowners, business and industry, wildlife enthusiasts, scientists and environmentalists. That broad approach is the reason Wildlife Mississippi will far exceed its initial expectations and goals. It's also the reason the Foundation will become a model for other states to emulate.
If one would like to join the effort, he or she can get a membership application by calling (662) 686-3375 or by writing the Mississippi Fish and Wildlife Foundation at P.O. Box 10, Stoneville, MS 38776. The web site address is www.wildlifemiss.org.
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