Grand Bay Wildlife Refuge looking to double in size

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The Grand Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Jackson County wants to double in size to help conserve our land. The 8,000 acre proposal will affect the coastal zones in South Mississippi as well as our Alabama neighbors.

The plan is to acquire 4,000 acres in both Mobile and Jackson Counties, which will enlarge the refuge to a little more 18,000 acres. Ranger Douglas Hunt said in Jackson County, his team is eyeing parts of the Pecan Community and an area near the Escatawpa River.

"Those are some of the most beautiful pristine lands along the coastal area," Hunt said.

As the ranger team members gave us a tour on the water, they pointed out areas of interest, and explained how expanding will meet multiple goals on the water and on land.

"There are endangered species in the area and some protected habitat and all that. But the whole thing of it is, this is the last big marshes that you will  see anywhere in Mississippi."

Rangers said the expanding the refuge's territory into the swamps, marshes and undeveloped ground, that will help stop residential and commercial development in those sensitive areas. The land can also be a buffer against Mother Nature's fury.

"We all figured out a few years back that manmade structures don't do all that well with storms. But the coastal environment has been dealing with it forever, so the marsh is very resilient," said Ranger Hunt.

Refuge rangers said there are property owners living in some areas of the proposed expansion. They plan to offer market value for the homes.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service still wants to hear what people who live in the area have to say about the proposed plan expansion, before moving forward with an environmental study. The expansion meeting will take place at the Grand Bay Senior and Community Center June 28 and 29 from 6 to 8 p.m.

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