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Grand Bay Wildlife Refuge Wants to Add 8,000 acres in Mississippi and Alabama

By Rhonda Miller | Published 22 Jun 2011 08:03pm | comments
Grand Bay Wildlife Refuge officials lead a tour of proposed expansion areas.

The Grand Bay National Wildlife Refuge near Gautier wants to add 8,000 acres - 4,000 of those in Mississippi. MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports the expansion is to safeguard plants and animals, and to protect the coastline.

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"Go along mentally, along the coastline, from Bay St. Louis to Pensacola. How much of the coastline looks like this? Almost none of it. A lot of it used to.That big sand beach that’s in Biloxi may not have been this big a marsh, but it was marshfront," says Park Ranger Doug Hunt. He is the guide for a boat tour to point out land for the expansion of the wildlife refuge. Pascagoula is in the distance, far off, beyond miles of marsh grass. Hunt says this marsh is a nursery for Gulf Coast seafood.

"This is where the shrimp, the crabs, and lots of things we don’t eat, but the other fish eat, this is where they live, this is where they grow up.," Hunt said.

The wildlife refuge is now 10,000 acres in Jackson County, Mississippi and Mobile County, Alabama.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to buy 8,000 additional acres at fair market value -  only from people willing to sell.

Maury Bedford is manager of the refuge. He says the expansion will protect endangered species like the Mississippi Sandhill Crane, the threatened gopher tortoise and many other species who live in the variety of habitats.

".....some of the most rarest pine savannah habitat and coastal marsh area located in the country. We have houses, we have businesses, we have human expansion- has kind of dwindled that," Bedford says. "The purpose of doing this is to hopefully save these lands, these delicate marshes and so forth for future generations."

The refuge will hold meetings on June 28 and 29 in Grand Bay, Alabama to get input from the public.  The acquisition of the 8,000 acres is expected to take many years.

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Grand Bay Wildlife Refuge officials lead a tour of proposed expansion areas.


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