Plans are unveiled for an urban wildlife area in honor of
Mississippi’s Mother Nature, Fannye Cook.
"We greatly appreciate the confidence that the Mississippi Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration have placed in Wildlife Mississippi to not only be the stewards of this wonderful property but to provide outdoor recreation opportunities to generations of Mississippians to come," said George Walker III, president of Wildlife Mississippi. "And it is especially fitting that this area be named after Ms. Fannye Cook, the pioneer of wildlife conservation in Mississippi.”
At today’s event, Commissioner Dick Hall, chairman, Mississippi Transportation Commission,
officially transferred ownership of the natural area in Rankin County to Wildlife Mississippi and presented Walker with the land deed to the property, which borders the Pearl River and covers approximately 2,700 acres.
In 2009, MDOT purchased the property from International Paper for the purpose of establishing a new mitigation bank to offset unavoidable losses of wetlands incurred during road construction projects in the Pearl River Basin. The bank will support the widening of the State Route 25 and other projects in the basin.
“There are several positive factors that come with the decision to transfer this land to Wildlife Mississippi,” Hall said. “First, there’s no chance it will cost state taxpayers any more money. Second, the land will continue to help with flood relief for the City of Flowood and continue benefiting several projects in the Jackson-Metro area.”
Plans unveiled by Wildlife Mississippi detail how the property will be used for recreational purposes including kayaking, canoeing, walking/hiking, bird watching and environmental education. The City of Jackson receives most of its drinking water from the Pearl River, and maintaining the site as a natural area will help protect the quality of the river’s water. It is the largest protected natural floodplain habitat in the Jackson-Metro.
The property is more than three times larger than New York City’s Central Park and is among the top 20 largest urban green spaces east of the Mississippi River. Several imperiled species live on or near the site, and more than 820,000 people live within 60 miles of the site, which is easily reachable from its entrance off of Lakeland Drive in Flowood.
Cook began the first comprehensive effort to collect and catalog the plants and animals of Mississippi in the 1920s and continued this work until her death in 1964. She traveled the state at her own expense to campaign for a statewide wildlife conservation program. As a result of these efforts, the Mississippi Legislature created the Mississippi Game and Fish Commission in 1932.
“We believe that the best way to honor Fannye Cook is by following her example,” said Libby Hartfield, Wildlife Mississippi’s Fannye Cook Natural Area Coordinator. “She believed that Mississippians needed access to natural habitats and the wildlife they support so they would come to respect and cherish nature’s gifts that we all inherit. This property has the incredible advantage of being accessible to more than 800,000 people within an hour’s drive.”