|Opinion: Mississippi Lakes Projects stand to give away our public lands
Our public lands are diverse and have the potential for increased economic success; but, the sale or outright giveaway of our public lands to private developers is not in our best interest. Once again, there are various proposals and plans to develop U S Army Corps of Engineers owned lands at several locations in Mississippi.
Specifically, the Town of Sardis is attempting to acquire through federal legislation the conveyance of 2,000 acres of Corps of Engineersí land adjacent to Sardis Lake and then convey this property to an undisclosed private developer. Proponents of this proposal would like the entire 2,000 acres conveyed to the Town of Sardis for little or no consideration to the federal government. Proponents of this transfer envision an exclusive, water-based residential development on the site once it is conveyed out of federal ownership.
Meanwhile, plans are under way for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife Fisheries and Parks to transfer Hugh White State Park, also located on Corps land, to the County of Grenada which in turn would lease a portion of the park to an unnamed private developer for commercial and residential development.
Other developments are planned at Bay Springs in Tishomingo County, Enid, and on the Pearl River near Jackson.
We do not dispute the attractiveness of this scenario for the developers, particularly if the lands can be acquired with little or no public review during the process and with little or no cost to the developers. Fortunately for the public, most of these developments as proposed would not be permitted under current Corpsí regulations.
Temporary construction jobs seem to be primary justification for these developments; however, the irony of all this is the fact no one seems to be looking at the current economic impact of our State and Federal public lands, as they exist now.
No doubt, people visiting our Public lands here in Mississippi spend tourist dollars in local communities in and above the direct user fees.
For now it looks as if the federal legislation proposal to convey the land to the Town of Sardis is on the back burner - at least for the time being.
These lands deserve protection, defense and thoughtful stewardship. They should not be used as commodities to be used in a shortsighted scramble for a few questionable dollars or temporary jobs. Our public lands are treasures that we should rightly hand on to our children and to our grandchildren.
By Larry Jarrett, a Union County businessman and forest landowner. Contact him at (662) 489-7049 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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