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Bill of the Day: Mississippi Parks Corporation Proposed to Run State Parks

This article first appeared on the Magnolia Tribune.

Paul B. Johnson State Park (Photo from MSDWFP website)

  • Magnolia Tribune brings you a Bill of the Day from the 2024 Mississippi Legislative Session that just may pique your interest.

Mississippi is no stranger to conservation, particularly when it comes to preserving the vast natural landscapes across the state. Much of these efforts are overseen by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks (WFP).

While the agency has been in place for several decades, there is an effort in the Mississippi Senate to remove “Parks” from the department’s responsibilities and create a standalone agency to handle the spaces.

State Senator Hob Bryan (D) said the proposed legislation did not come from a lack of satisfaction for the current Department of WFP.  His intent in the bill is to have someone run the state parks, similar to how national parks are overseen.

“In many respects, it’s a business whose goal is to serve the public,” said Sen. Bryan in Senate’s Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Committee. “I think we will do better with a group whose only business is running the parks, if we hire an Executive Director who is experienced in that area.”

Mississippi currently has 25 state parks.

Bryan compared the proposed parks corporation to the current lottery corporation, except that employees would still receive state benefits. He believes that if Parks are segmented off into its own division with an expert leading the agency, it will add to the quality of the state parks and their utilization.  

SB 2659, Bryan’s proposed legislation, recognizes the unique responsibility state government holds in the preservation of state parks. The bill would create the Mississippi Parks Corporation, which is to be overseen by the Governor, Legislature, and residents by a system of audits and reports.

The corporation would be administered by a board comprised of five appointees. Those board members would be designated by the Governor with advice of the Mississippi Senate. The Commissioner of Revenue and the State Treasurer would also serve as non-voting members on the board.

Attention on preserving Mississippi’s natural environment began in the 1770s when a naturalist explorer, William Bartram, traveled to the state. After the start of the 1800s, artist James Audubon, who began working on his Birds of America opus, and Bartram witnessed the vast clearing of hardwood forests along the Mississippi River.

After nearly 100 years passed, a Crystal Springs native, Frances A. “Fannye” Cook, began a concrete effort to create the state’s first wildlife laws. This led to the creation of the Mississippi Game and Fish Commission, which has now become the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks as it’s known today.

Senator Bryan’s bill passed out of committee last week and could be considered by the full Senate in the coming days.

This article first appeared on the Magnolia Tribune and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Read original article by clicking here.

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