Bird watching is a national phenomenon, one the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has called the fastest growing recreational activity in America.
The federal agency is reporting that some 50 million citizens identify themselves as bird watchers. Add to this multi-billion dollar activity those who also hunt and fish, and landowners--especially those in largely rural states like Mississippi--could find themselves with a bubbling cash stream flowing right through their backyards.
To address the multi-faceted world of natural resources enterprises, faculty and staff in Mississippi State's wildlife and fisheries department are collaborating to offer a series of training workshops. Their partners in the effort include the university's GeoResources Institute, U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service, Mississippi Farm Bureau, and Ducks Unlimited Inc.
Their shared goal: to help Mississippi landowners and others become skilled in developing fee-hunting and natural tourism businesses.
Funded by the federal Environmental Protection Agency's Wetlands Division and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the sessions now are being scheduled throughout Mississippi during 2006.
"Natural resource enterprises encompass a variety of activities including fee hunting and angling, trail riding, wildlife watching, agritourism, bed-and-breakfast operations, and much more," said Daryl Jones, assistant wildlife extension professor and research scientist in MSU's Forest and Wildlife Research Center.
The sessions will focus on wildlife habitat conservation and management practices for agricultural and forest lands, cost-efficient wetland and riparian (situated on a river or lake bank) land conservation practices, business and marketing planning, accident liability reduction, and economic and ecological benefits of fee-access operations, Jones said.
Mike and Jimmy Lanier, land managers for Birdlands and Birdlands Plantation in Panola County recently hosted a workshop that attracted 75 attendees from 16 counties in Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Florida.
"We were delighted to host this event and were pleased at the overwhelming interest by landowners on natural resource enterprises and wildlife management on private lands," said Mike Lanier. "The training involves not only classroom instruction but also a firsthand glimpse at habitat management practices that promote game and non-game wildlife."
For additional information and a schedule of workshop dates, contact Jones at (662) 325-3174 or visit www.naturalresources.msstate.edu .