Our third annual “Jackson for a Healthy Gulf” event happened Thursday, March 6th at Hal and Mal’s patio room in downtown Jackson, Mississippi. A diverse group of stalwart friends joined us on a cold, rainy March night and listened to GRN’s Executive Director, Cyn Sarthou, talk about GRN’s history and our work in Mississippi. Our audience ranged from Millsaps College students to birdwatching grandmothers. Cyn noted that 2014 marks GRN’s 20th year and touched on the challenges in funding the kind of work we do in Mississippi. Sometimes environmental advocacy voices in the state may appear to be spread a little thin, but this doesn’t indicate a lack of interest.
Mississippi is a beautiful state with many natural amenities that need nurturing and thoughtful planning rather than threats from poorly conceived development projects. The state and the Nature Conservancy began 37 years ago with the vision to buy and preserve lands along the Pascagoula River. Before the word “ecotourism” existed, the Pascagoula purchase set the stage for economically beneficial public use and for a growing national appreciation of this river and its swamp habitats in George and Jackson Counties. Conversely, an example of lack of vision in planning development projects is the Rankin-Hinds Pearl River Drainage District’s regressive idea that the Pearl River needs another dam and a lake to control floods in the Jackson Metro area. The river downstream of Jackson has suffered from the disruptive effects of the Ross Barnett dam for 50 years. There are other alternatives for flood control that won’t make things markedly worse for downstream sections of the river.
I know many thoughtful, conservation-minded people in Mississippi who recognize the great natural assets that the state possesses. Our literature, art and our mode of living reflect this fact. We will continue to unite and empower the conservation voices we have while working to add more. Thanks to our friends who came to Hal and Mal’s to show their interest and support for GRN’s work.
Andrew Whitehurst is GRN’s Water Policy Director and lives in Madison, MS.