Forests dominate much of Mississippi, covering 65% of the landscape. Almost 80% of the forests are in the private, nonindustrial ownership. Private forest lands are essential to sustaining both the forest products industry and a healthy environment. The Mississippi Forest Resource Assessment and Strategy (Forest Action Plan) addresses eight key issues identified by stakeholders as areas of concern regarding Mississippi’s natural resources and forest lands. The eight key issues are: Forest Sustainability, Resource Markets, Land Ownership Policies, Forest Health, Stewardship Education, Wildfire Fuel Reduction, Climate Change, and Wildlife. Our Forest Action Plan includes a broad set of recommended strategies that were developed to respond to these key issues. These long-term strategies incorporate existing statewide forest and resource management plans and create the basis for future program, agency and partner coordination.
Development around forested areas continues to increase the potential for catastrophic impacts from wildfires. Reducing or eliminating various fuels from the forest structure in cost effective ways is integral for the protection of Mississippi’s forest resources and the safety of persons and property. The One Message Many Voices campaign will help increase awareness among the general public and public officials about the need for prescribed burning for the benefit of ecosystem management and fuel reduction. Fire is critical for forest health and Certified Prescribed Burn Managers are an essential tool. Mississippi offers the Prescribed Burn Short Course twice a year. This training has the potential of increasing the number of Certified Prescribed Burners in the state.
The federal renewable fuels standard calls for producing 30 percent of the nation’s energy from biomass by the year 2030. There is great potential for the development of energy from renewable natural resources in Mississippi. Effective utilization of the biomass resource and continued advancement in bio-fuel technology will help Mississippi address present and future energy challenges. The Mississippi Institute for Forest Inventory (MIFI) provides forest resource inventory information to biomass companies that are interested in operating in Mississippi.
Across the state, native and non-native invasive flora and fauna have caused adverse impacts on the value, productivity, functionality and ecosystem services of forest communities on both public and private lands. Maintaining forest health is especially challenging on private, nonindustrial lands, which constitute the majority of our forest lands. Native species such as the southern pine beetle, which exhibits periodic outbreaks causing rapid and widespread tree mortality, pose a great threat. Threats by other non-native species already established and spreading within the U.S. include the emerald ash borer, Asian longhorned beetle, Eurasian wood wasp, sudden oak death and thousand cankers disease (TCD) of black walnut. Non-native invasive plant species such as cogongrass, kudzu, Chinese tallow tree and others have exhibited escalating impacts as infestations have spread virtually unabated throughout the state for years, until some recent efforts of late. The fight should continue to be a joint effort among several partner agencies to implement education/awareness programs and on-the-ground control and eradication measures.