All landowners must face the decision of what to do with their land. Most people are interested in creating revenue from their land from agriculture, forestry or perhaps leasing for hunting and fishing or other recreational uses. Others are content with just owning their property for personal enjoyment, or keeping it as a legacy to hand down to future generations. Still, a decision for the land’s use must be made, and it would greatly benefit the landowner to have all their options and information available in one place so that they can make an informed decision on what is best for them, their family and future generations. This idea has lead Wildlife Mississippi towards developing the Conservation Finance Center (www.conservationfinancecenter.org) to assist landowners with difficult land-use decisions and convey to them information on current conservation programs.
Wildlife Mississippi, the Mississippi Land Trust and the Mississippi River Trust have partnered with Yale University and the Walton Family Foundation to develop a website to assist private landowners in making conservation decisions based on sound economics. The website contains background information for many of the programs that Wildlife Mississippi uses to assist private landowners with conservation projects. Currently these conservation tools include the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), the Wetlands Reserve Easement (WRE).
One of the most useful elements of the website is a Decision Support Tool (DST) where landowners can provide information on their property that will help them make a comparative financial analysis of various land uses. This can assist landowners in visualizing the economic results of undergoing certain land-use practices, while providing all of the background information, costs and revenues all in one location.
Currently, the DST is designed for bottomland hardwood restoration using the CRP and the WRE in the states of Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee. Future plans are to modify the decision tool to accommodate upland projects as well, such as native prairie and longleaf pine restoration.
Also, with the passing of the 2014 Farm Bill, new policy stipulates soils with “subclass w” in the land capability classes IV through VIII no longer count towards the county limit, opening up limited acreage in select counties where no enrollments have been allowed in previous years.
The website provides plenty of useful information, summaries and links for different aspects of land conservation and the numerous programs that are available to provide incentives for private landowners interested in restoring, enhancing or preserving fish and wildlife habitat and other natural resources.
Wildlife Mississippi is especially appreciative to the Walton Family Foundation for providing funding to help develop the Conservation Finance Center and to Yale University for their expertise and valuable assistance.