NATURAL Heritage Program

The Mississippi Natural Heritage Program identifies and maps localities supporting Mississippi's rarest plant and animal species, exemplary natural communities, and special geological features. From the inventory, the Natural Heritage Database compiles information on the distribution, biology, status, and preservation needs of these species and communities. Established in 1976, through a cooperative agreement between The Nature Conservancy, a private conservation organization, and the Mississippi Parks Commission (now part of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks [MDWFP]), full administration of the program was assumed by the MDWFP in 1978.

The Mississippi Natural Heritage Program is part of an international network including State Natural Heritage Programs and Conservation Data Centers, all building on the same data collection methodology. The database is updated continuously and is used to set state, national and global priorities for the preservation of natural diversity. 

The Natural Heritage Inventory project has four major areas of activity: 

  1. To conduct a comprehensive inventory of Mississippi's ecological resources in order to provide a continuous process for identifying significant natural areas and setting land protection priorities in the state. Information on the status and distribution of exemplary biotic communities, rare and endangered plants and animals, aquatic and marine habitats, geological and other natural features is collected, stored, and analyzed in an integrated data management system. 
  2. To conduct field surveys: 
    • To verify the continued existence of a reported occurrence of a rare plant, animal, or community type (an "element")
    • To collect sufficient information on the occurrence, distribution, and status of elements (status surveys) to allow decisions to be made concerning prioritization of management activities 
    • To look for new element "occurrences" not previously documented during the inventory process.
  3. To conserve outstanding examples of our natural heritage by use of innovative management and protection strategies (working with landowners, developing management plans, monitoring elements of diversity on established natural areas). 
  4. To manage and promote the Natural Areas Registry and the Scenic Streams Stewardship Program. Both programs encourage landowners to voluntarily protect special habitats and streamside areas either through non-binding conservation agreements or long-term conservation easements. State and Federal income tax incentives exist for landowners who protect these areas through the creation of conservation easements. 


Additional Information