South Mississippi Strong: Preserving our state’s natural resources

South Mississippi Strong: Preserving our state's natural resources
WLOX's Dave Elliott and Judy Steckler, director of the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain. (Photo Source: WLOX)
WLOX's Dave Elliott and Judy Steckler, director of the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain. (Photo Source: WLOX)

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - One of coastal Mississippi's greatest strengths is it's abundance of natural beauty.

The Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain is dedicated to protecting and preserving our precious resources. The group's director, Judy Steckler took us to a special place in Ocean Springs.

"This is the Old Fort Bayou. It's very special when you see the marsh grass . It's a great habitat for fish, birds and other animals," said Steckler.

Judy Steckler with the Land Trust is taking us on a trail adventure that begins at historic Twelve Oaks in Ocean Springs.This special place has, perhaps the finest collection of Oak Trees you'll find in South Mississippi.

The Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain finds, purchases and manages ecologically and historically important pieces of property in Coastal Mississippi. "We conserve, protect and preserve open spaces and green spaces that have a scenic, ecological or cultural value," Steckler said.

The Mississippi Coastal Plain owns a patchwork of habitats that include plant and animal communities, tidal and fresh water rivers, marshes, forests and swamps. The areas are fragile and productive pieces of our ecosystem.

Steckler works to make sure these places are protected from the reaches of economic development. "Good development and good conservation go hand in hand. We think it's important to protect, to give the quality of life to the people of the Mississippi Gulf Coast," according to Steckler.

The Land Trust has properties that dot the landscape around South Mississippi.

Walking trails are open to the public. Twelve Oaks is a spectacular site. The home was built in 1884 and was one of the first African American Churches in South Mississippi. Today artists stay here and create pieces in a residency program.

The grounds are breathtaking.

"It's the serenity, peace and enjoyment of listening to the birds or the wind blowing through the trees. You can find just about any feeling when you're on the grounds," Judy said.

Judy is on an unimpeded mission to find grants and negotiate with developers and landowners to save special places, like Cedar Lake Island on the Tchoutacabuoffa River in Biloxi. The old Danztler Saw Mill operated here in the early 1900s. "In this area, the first rail line from Stone County came to the island and delivered the timber to the Dantzler Saw Mill," said Steckler.

The island is owned by the Land Trust. Judy Steckler thinks it's important to give people access to some of these stupendous properties and give all of us a stake on preservation. "We have to have some lands where people can just go and put their feet in the water of a bayou or river if you want to save it. If you can't feel it, touch it and experience it, it has nor meaning to you," Steckler said.

The Land Trust was founded in 2000. The group works in the six coastal plain counties of South Mississippi.

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