Jackson County

Oil spill money pays for 1,500 new acres for Mississippi Coast wildlife areas

More than 1,500 acres have been purchased to protect coastal wildlife areas in Jackson County using money from the 2010 BP oil spill, officials announced Wednesday.

But thousands more acres could be added in the future. Up to $6 million has been allocated for the acquisition of up to 8,000 acres and habitat management of 17,500 acres in the Grand Bay area.

“A key component of our overall restoration planning after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill has included the conservation of habitat for the benefit of the people who recreate there and the wildlife that live there,” Gov. Phil Bryant said in a press release. “I’m pleased we have been able to secure this area that will expand the lands that are already being conserved.”

This first purchase will add land to the Grand Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, and the Grand Bay Savanna Coastal Preserve.

The areas host over 200 migratory bird species each year and “represent one of the few locations along the Gulf Coast where a transition from upland to open water provides a connection of freshwater, estuarine and marine habitats,” said Mary Josie Blanchard, director of Gulf of Mexico Restoration for the Department of the Interior, in a press release.

“This acreage will also provide expanded access for hunting, fishing, paddling, wildlife watching, and other important coastal recreation-related tourism opportunities,” The Conservation Fund said in the release.

Oil spill money is split into many different pots managed by many different federal and state agencies and groups. One of the channels is Natural Resource Damage Assessment, which received $8.1 billion. Each Gulf Coast state has a group of trustees to manage the money and projects. Mississippi’s trustee group is allocating about $297 million.

The land was bought through the Mississippi Secretary of State with assistance from The Conversation Fund, a national environmental nonprofit. It will be managed by the Department of Marine Resources.