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MSU Helps Balance Nature, Military Readiness

When the petite blonde researcher from Mississippi State University (MSU) speaks, even heavy artillery and tank commanders listen.

Since 1987, Jeanne Jones has been helping the military with techniques that create harmony between military training and conservation. While erosion control was the initial focus on more than 280,000 acres of U.S. Department of Defense's (DOD) lands, the enhancement of wildlife habitat and diversity has been the associate professor of wildlife and fisheries' primary mission during her years at the university.

From her work over time, the Vicksburg native and a team of MSU graduate students, under her direction, have developed what is known as Integrated Natural Resource Management Plans. Their clients include the U.S. Departments of the Army and Navy, as well as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Mississippi Army National Guard.

The plans provide land and water management, as well as species conservation guidelines, for military training theaters that serve more than 130,000 military personnel annually. In addition to being training grounds, the reservations support more than 80 state and federally listed plants and animals and at least eight unique and rare ecosystems.

“Our research on restoration ecology and conservation has been used extensively by the DOD to meet the natural resource and conservation demands of a diverse public, while maintaining lands on which to accomplish the military training mission,” Jones explained.

“Our main objective is to train troops, but we also have to manage natural resources and be good stewards of the land,” said Lieutenant Colonel Robert Piazza of the state National Guard headquarters in Jackson. “That's what we're trying to do through the work with MSU.”

The success of MSU's Forest and Wildlife Research Center has resulted in a national award for the plan developed initially for the Guard. Researchers also received a NASA Group Achievement Award for their work at Hancock County's Stennis Space Center.

Because each military base has different ecosystems and needs, Jones said facility leaders must concern themselves with a multitude of natural resource issues. These include sustainable forestry management and use, wetland conservation and restoration, outdoor recreation, protection of rare and endangered species, control of noise pollution and ecosystem health, she observed.

“The military lands are unique in that they have not been disturbed by development,” said Jarrod Fogarty, a post-doctoral associate working with Jones. “Because of this distinctiveness, many species of plants and animals inhabit military reservations, and Camp Shelby supports many species that are rare in other parts of the state.”

In addition to benefiting the military, the research introduces MSU graduate students to an array of innovative concepts that will be applied in their future careers.

“Researchers have found that the frequent fires associated with Camp Shelby's artillery firing improve the habitat for some species, including gopher tortoises and pitcher plants,” Fogarty said. “Regular fires in longleaf pine forests present an opportunity for the restoration of this rare forest type in south Mississippi.”

Jones said an additional goal is to control the spread of cogongrass.

Other locations of the center's research include the Army's Redstone Arsenal reservation in North Alabama, Meridian Naval Air Station in East Central Mississippi and Tombigbee National Forests of Central Mississippi.

For more information, contact Dr. Jones at (662) 325-2219 or jjones@cfr.msstate.edu.