State acquires nearly 18,000 acres once held by Anderson-Tully Lumber

Published 6:33 pm Monday, July 23, 2018

As expected, the state has acquired nearly 18,000 acres that once belonged to Anderson-Tully Lumber Company in the Eagle Lake area.

The sale of the Steele Bayou Wildlife Management area in Issaquena and Warren counties became final last week, according to the Associated Press, and is the largest piece of land the state has acquired in 40 years.

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Only the purchase of the 37,415-acre Pascagoula River Wildlife Management Area four decades ago is larger.

The new WMA is expected to open in 2019.

As reported by The Vicksburg Post in May, several hunting clubs who leased the area from Anderson-Tully received notice their leases were being terminated and forced to vacate their hunting camps.

The notices, obtained by The Post, informed the hunting clubs they would be given 60 days from May 15 to “remove all personally owned buildings, structures or other equipment from the property,” and that, “access to the property during the 60-day period shall be for the sole purpose of removing such personal property and for no other purpose.”

Perry Egger, who is a member of Buck Track Hunting Club, which leased 1,400 of the 17,816 acres, estimated there are 15 to 20 clubs who lease land within the impacted area.

Hunting club members sent letters to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks voicing their displeasure with turning the land into a WMA.

“The question remains, do you actually increase access to hunting by purchasing the land,” said Egger, who has been a member of Buck Track for eight years. “It’s not that its not good property, but the access is poor.”

The Nature Conservancy worked with the MDWFP to buy the land from Anderson-Tully. Alex Littlejohn, associate director of The Nature Conservancy, said the purchase will help preserve the Mississippi Delta’s disappearing hardwood bottomland forests.

The area offers some of Mississippi’s best deer hunting. Littlejohn says it also offers wildlife-watching and fishing.

Russ Walsh, executive director of the MDWFP, said in May the reason the state agency was pursuing the sale is because it may be one of the last opportunities to purchase and protect such a large contiguous area of bottomland hardwoods.

“If you look at the Delta as a whole, there’s not a lot of large contiguous tracts of bottomland hardwood left,” Walsh said. “This would keep intact a large valuable piece of forested wetland ecosystem. It certainly is attractive from a conservation value and it would also keep it a public holding so it would allow public access for hunting and recreation.”

Some of the WMAs in Mississippi require hunters to participate in a drawing for rights to hunt on the land, while at others, hunters are given access after purchasing an annual license that allows them to hunt on the state’s WMAs.

“Right now, we really can’t tell you anything,” Amy Blaylock, MDWFP director of wildlife resources, said. “We haven’t made any decisions as to how we’re going to manage it.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.