The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources Coastal Preserves Program was developed in 1992 by authority of the Wetlands Protection Act. The Coastal Preserves Program’s objective is to acquire, protect and manage sensitive coastal wetlands habitats along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, therefore ensuring the ecological health of Mississippi's coastal wetlands ecosystems. As part of the development of the CPP, 72,000 acres of tidal marsh, tidally influenced marsh and wetlands were designated as “crucial coastal wetlands habitat” within 20 unique Coastal Preserve sites. The state currently holds title to about 40,000 acres of this crucial coastal wetland habitat. The DMR partners with the Mississippi Secretary of State’s office, which acquires the properties, and MDMR manages the lands for the state. A description of the 20 designated Coastal Preserves can be found below. The CPP also manages five trail systems within several Coastal Preserves sites: Indian Point trails in Gautier, Deer Island trails in Biloxi, Ansley Birding Trail in Hancock County, Bell’s Ferry Nature Trail off the Wolf River in Pass Christian; and 12 Oaks Trail in Ocean Springs, which is managed jointly with the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain. 

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Mississippi's Coastal Preserve Sites

Coastal Preserves Trails Map

Coastal Preserves Visitor Rules and Guidelines

A. General

  1. The Department of Marine Resources is not responsible for any accidents or injuries to any persons while on state-owned coastal preserve property.
  2. The Department of Marine Resources shall not be responsible for any property or article lost, stolen, or damaged while on state-owned coastal preserve property.
  3. Obey all posted signs, gates, and fences. During certain times, areas of the preserve may be closed due to restoration, prescribed fire, or endangered habitat and animals.
  4. No permanent structures are allowed on state-owned coastal preserve property.
  5. Attaching or posting of notices, signs, or any other objects on state-owned coastal preserves is prohibited.
  6. No new trails shall be cut or created within the state-owned coastal preserves.
  7. No one shall use portable generators without permission.
  8. Remove all personal property and trash when leaving.
  9. Please respect the property of adjacent landowners. Keep in mind that state-owned coastal preserves boundaries may not be clearly marked.
  10. Help preserve and protect your coastal preserves.
  11. Please call the Coastal Preserves Program at the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, if you see anything that requires immediate attention. (228) 374-5000.

B. Safety Precautions

  1. Cell phone: Be sure to take along a cell phone in case of an emergency.
  2. Food and water: Be sure to bring adequate amounts of food for your trip to a coastal preserve. Bring plenty of water and keep well hydrated on days that are hot and sunny.
  3. Protection from sun: Serious sunburns can occur even on somewhat cloudy days. Bring plenty of sunscreen (SPF 15 or greater). Also use hats, sunglasses and clothing to protect you from the sun's harmful rays.
  4. Footwear: Boots or shoes are recommended. There may still be storm debris that contains pieces of metal, glass, etc.
  5. Inclement weather: Bring proper rain gear if rain is expected. Visits to coastal preserves during heavy rain or weather are not recommended.
  6. Insects: Biting or stinging insects may be common. Mosquitoes, ants and gnats are a particular nuisance and may carry some diseases. Use insect repellent with DEET to protect against insect bites.
  7. Snakes and alligators: Do not harass or approach any snakes or alligators. Cottonmouths (also known as water moccasin) are a common poisonous snake found on in coastal preserves. If a snake or alligator is encountered, walk away from it and let others with you know of its location.
  8. Poison oak/ivy: Be prepared to identify and avoid poison oak and poison ivy. These plants can cause an allergic reaction to the skin if contacted. Do not burn any wood with vines on it. Breathing in smoke from burning poison ivy vines can be serious.
  9. Briars and thorny plants: Some areas may contain vines and shrubs with sharp thorns and briars. If possible refrain from walking in these areas and wear long pants to protect your legs.
  10. Hazardous trees: Many trees in the coastal preserves were killed or severely injured by Hurricane Katrina. These dead and dying trees are a potential hazard. Large limbs or the entire tree may fall at any time. Avoid any areas with a large number of dead trees and use extreme caution when around them. Do not camp around dead standing trees. Be cautious and alert for falling snags along trails and roadways.
  11. Avoid storm debris piles. Hurricane Katrina left a great deal of storm debris in the coastal preserves. Most of that debris has been removed; however, there are still areas with significant amounts of storm debris. This debris can be hazardous so it's best to stay clear of any debris you may see.

C. Camping

  1. Currently, camping in state-owned coastal preserves is allowed only on Deer Island.
  2. Camp as near the beach as you can. This will keep the bugs down and will minimize disturbance to the wildlife.
  3. Do not carve, chop, or cut down any live or dead standing vegetation. If you need to make a campfire, you may collect loose material on the ground for burning.
  4. Build campfires only in fire rings, stoves, or grills on bare sandy areas near the water. Be sure your fire is completely extinguished before leaving the area. YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR KEEPING YOUR FIRE UNDER CONTROL.
  5. The camping areas are very primitive, lacking fresh water and sanitation facilities. All necessities need to be packed in and all trash, including human waste, should be removed and properly disposed.
  6. It's recommended that campers use portable toilets. Otherwise dig a small "cat hole" (at least 6 inches deep) no less than 200 feet away from all water sources, campsites and trails. Be sure to cover these holes up completely and pack them down tight.
  7. Do not disturb any nesting birds or other wildlife.
  8. Remove all personal property and trash when leaving. The Leave No Trace ethic should be practiced.
  9. Keep noise at a reasonable level. Please be considerate of fellow visitors.
  10. No pets are allowed.
  11. Camping on the island is for recreation purposes only. Attempting to make the island your permanent residence is not allowed.
  12. Native American sites, old homesites, and other structures, along with objects and artifacts associated with them, are state historical and archeological resources. It is illegal to remove historical artifacts from state property without a permit from the Department of Archives and History. Please help preserve them by not touching or removing anything from the site.
  13. The boundaries between state and private lands are not clearly marked. Please respect private property rights.

D. Personal Conduct

  1. Please be considerate of fellow visitors.
  2. Disorderly conduct is strictly prohibited. No person shall indulge in riotous, boisterous, threatening or indecent conduct or abusive, threatening, profane or indecent language.
  3. No person shall commit a nuisance, unreasonably disturb or annoy others, nor do any act amounting to a breach of the peace.
  4. Keep noise at a reasonable level. No person shall operate or use radios, phonographs, or other sound producing equipment in any area which is audible beyond the immediate vicinity so as to disturb any other persons.
  5. No person shall dress, undress, or indecently expose his or her person in any area of the preserve where they may be seen by any other person.

E. Fires, Fireworks, and Explosives

  1. Campfires are allowed only on Deer Island.
  2. Fires for the purposes of hunting or trapping are strictly prohibited.
  3. Fireworks are prohibited.
  4. No person shall bring into or have in the state-owned coastal preserve any explosive substance or device.
  5. In seasons of unusual dryness or excessive fire danger, smoking and fires may be prohibited anywhere within the preserves. Burn bans will be enforced.

F. Wildlife, Plants, and Archeology

  1. Leave natural, historical, and archeological items in place. Collecting natural or archeological objects, or removing, defacing or destroying any plant, animal, or mineral is prohibited.
  2. All birds of prey (eagles, hawks, osprey, owls, kites and vultures) and other nongame birds are protected and may not be hunted, molested, bought or sold.
  3. No animals, wild or otherwise, may be released into state-owned coastal preserves.
  4. No person may cut or saw any live or dead trees or their parts, with any type of equipment, power or otherwise, on state-owned coastal preserves, or remove any live or dead trees.
  5. Planting vegetation on state-owned coastal preserves is prohibited.
  6. The feeding of all wildlife, migratory waterfowl, or any feral animal is prohibited within the preserve.
  7. Using metal detectors and/or digging into the soil of state-owned coastal preserves are prohibited.

G. Trash and Waste

  1. All items (trash, litter etc.) brought into the coastal preserve are required to be packed up and taken out of the preserve upon leaving.
  2. It's recommended that campers use portable toilets. Otherwise dig a small "cat hole" (at least 6 inches deep) no less than 200 feet away from all water sources, campsites and trails. Be sure to cover these holes up completely and pack them down tight.
  3. Practice Leave No Trace.

H. Hunting and Fishing

  1. When using coastal preserve for hunting, fishing, or other recreational activities, one must abide by all federal, state, and local laws governing their activities.
  2. All persons participating in hunting or fishing on a coastal preserve, except those exempt from purchasing an annual hunting or fishing license, must carry on their person an annual statewide license.
  3. Sport fishing and the taking of shellfish must be done in accordance with state regulations.
  4. Target shooting is prohibited on preserve property.
  5. No hunting is permitted within 500 feet of nature trails, roadways or permanent structures, with the exception of archery hunting for deer with a safety zone of 200 feet.
  6. No firearms shall be permitted during the closed season on game birds and animals.
  7. Harassment of wildlife, including spotlighting, is prohibited.
  8. Construction of or hunting from any permanent stands or blinds is prohibited. Stands or blinds left on preserve property may be confiscated and disposed of by the DMR.
  9. The use of any type of wildlife feeder is prohibited.
  10. Planting of or hunting over a "food plot" is prohibited.

I. Off Road Vehicles

  1. Off-road motorized vehicles/ATVs are strictly prohibited on preserve property. Airboats must remain in the water at all times while in the state-owned coastal preserve areas.
  2. Parking is allowed in designated parking areas only.

 

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Deer Island Restoration Project

The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (DMR) has received a grant from the Gulf of Mexico Community-based Restoration Partnership (GCRP) to help fund a part of the Deer Island Restoration Project. The GCRP is a multi-year, regional partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Community-based Restoration Program (CRP); the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Gulf of Mexico Program’s Gulf Ecological Management Sites (GEMS) Initiative; and the Gulf states and Caribbean territories. The purpose of this partnership is to strengthen the conservation efforts of the CRP and GEMS by supporting on-the-ground restoration activities and fostering local stewardship of ecologically significant areas.

The $20,000 grant, to be matched by DMR, will be used to help protect about 800 linear feet of shoreline on the northeast corner of Deer Island from erosion by creating a breakwater/berm using bags of recycled oyster shell stacked and staked along the shoreline. The breakwater/berm should be just below the surface of the water during high tide and exposed during low tides, and will break up the wave action along the shoreline, therefore reducing erosion. The recycled shell will be bound in mesh wire bags, which will eventually rust away leaving the oyster habitat free of debris.

Once the breakwater is in place, live oysters will be deployed along the base of the shells. The recycled oyster shells will provide suitable substrate for oyster spat (small oysters) to settle and create an oyster reef. The oyster reef in turn will attract fish and create a habitat for small marine plants and animals.

The initial deployment of oyster shell is planned for early March 2010.

The Deer Island Restoration Project is part of an ongoing effort to restore Deer Island to its original size prior to Hurricane Katrina. Deer Island is a GEMS site, which is part of a program developed in coordination with the EPA and the Gulf of Mexico Program to acquire information about coastal wetland sites and make them accessible to the public through the Internet. The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources Management Team for the Mississippi GEMS Program includes: Jeff Clark, site manager, and Rhonda Price, coordinator; DMR Shellfish Bureau Director Scott Gordon and DMR Marine Fisheries Scientist Marty Jones, project grantee; and the Gulf of Mexico Foundation Restoration Program Manager Ryan Fikes and Executive Director Quenton Dokken, corresponding project grantor.

Grant to Help Fund Deer Island Restoration Project update on February 1, 2013

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Coastal Preserves Mission, Vision, and Goals

Mission

The Coastal Preserves Program is dedicated to effectively preserve, conserve, restore, and manage Mississippi's coastal ecosystems to perpetuate their natural characteristics, features, ecological integrity, social, economic and aesthetic values for future benefit.

Vision

The long-term vision of this program is the management of Mississippi's Coastal Preserves sites to provide long-term benefits to the natural resources and economic value of the region. Management goals will enhance and perpetuate approximately 83,000 acres of important coastal wetland resources, provide compatible human recreational use, provide research and data applicable to coastal resource management both on-site and off-site, and protect specific habitat necessary for native, threatened, or endangered species. State trust lands within the Coastal Preserve sites will be effectively managed to perpetuate their natural characteristics, features, ecological integrity, social, economic, and aesthetic values so that future generations may enjoy the benefits of viable wetland ecosystems.

Goals

Coastal Preserves Program personnel will partner with the Mississippi Secretary of States Office, the Nature Conservancy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Mississippi Forestry Commission, National Resource Conservation Service, and other local, state, and federal agencies and organizations to fulfill the responsibilities mandated in the Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Marine Resources and the Secretary of States Office.

1. Restore, enhance, protect, and manage Mississippi's remaining coastal estuarine marsh ecosystems.

Objective: Acquire and protect coastal habitats.
Strategy: Identify, acquire, and protect significant acreage of high priority coastal wetlands through fee simple title, easements, or protective agreements each year.

Objective: Identify coastal wetlands that can be restored or enhanced to mitigate adverse impacts to coastal habitats.
Strategy (1): Implement measures to identify wetlands that have been altered and can be restored or enhanced to perform wetland functions.
Strategy (2): Identify, create, restore, or enhance significant acreage of high priority coastal wetlands by 2008.

2. Protect and preserve habitat of any rare, threatened, or endangered species of plants and animals present on Coastal Preserves.

Objective: Protect and preserve habitat critical for rare, threatened, and endangered species.
Strategy (1): Assess and monitor occurrences and locations of rare, threatened, and endangered species within Coastal Preserve sites.
Strategy (2): Protect and preserve significant acreage of critical habitat required by rare, threatened, and endangered species through fee simple title, easements, or protective agreements each year.
Strategy (3): Manage habitat of rare, threatened, and endangered species to prevent impacts that would negatively influence ecological integrity.

3. Promote increased opportunities for public appreciation and enjoyment of Mississippis coastal estuarine wetlands that are compatible with protecting, preserving, and enhancing the natural resources.

Objective: Provide public access and use of resources on state- owned lands within Coastal Preserves Program.
Strategy (1): Identify those areas conducive to increased public access and enjoyment of wetland resources within Coastal Preserve sites.
Strategy (2): Provide public opportunities for hunting, fishing, and other outdoor recreational opportunities.
Strategy (3): Develop necessary partnerships with state and local agencies to finance, develop, and manage enhanced access projects.
Strategy (4): Secure necessary acreage to protect unique habitat and environmentally sensitive areas.

Objective: Actively promote access and enjoyment opportunities of public wetland sites.
Strategy (1): Identify and inventory coastal wetland sites that provide public access and recreational opportunities.
Strategy (2): Develop a comprehensive guide promoting opportunities to public access facilities and the natural resources of Mississippi Coastal Wetlands.
Strategy (3): Develop partnerships with other natural resource agencies, state agencies, and local private organizations to promote opportunities for public enjoyment of coastal wetlands.
Strategy (4): Provide public opportunities to participate in wildlife and habitat inventories and surveys.

4. Acquire, restore, and protect unique habitats associated with plant and animal communities.

Objective: Identify unique habitats within the Coastal Preserve sites.
Strategy (1): Use photographs, literature, and field visits to identify and inventory habitats and communities located within the Coastal Preserve sites.
Strategy (2): Document and collect coordinates for unique habitats and communities.

Objective: Acquire and protect unique habitats and communities.
Strategy (1): Acquire significant acreage of unique habitat and communities.
Strategy (2): Develop management plans that preserve ecological integrity of habitat.
Strategy (3): Evaluate land use management strategies.
Strategy (4): Identify unique or critical habitat that may not reside within Coastal Preserves boundaries but may be suitable for acquisition or protection.

5. Monitor populations of non-indigenous species and protect native species from deleterious effects of non-indigenous species.

Objective: Identify, document location of, and monitor populations and effects of non-indigenous species on native flora and fauna.
Strategy (1): Semi-annually, determine if non-indigenous species are significantly threatening flora and fauna and take responsive actions annually to alleviate those threats.

6. Contribute to the viability and natural biodiversity of coastal estuarine marsh ecosystems through management.

Objective: Manage Coastal Preserves to support priority habitats and species and to promote environmental education and public use.
Strategy (1): Manage Coastal Preserve lands in a manner that will maximize their viability, biodiversity, and contribution to achieving ecosystem goals.
Strategy (2): Develop and maintain a coordinated Coastal Preserves data management system.
Strategy (3): Manage and develop provisions for the protection of areas containing unique examples of coastal estuarine marsh ecosystem and other significant natural features or plant or animal life.

7. Develop coastal preserve management strategies that foster improved coordination among federal, state, and local entities with jurisdiction and interests in coastal wetland protection.

Objective: Gather and make available information needed by reserve managers and coastal decision-makers for improved understanding and management of coastal resources.
Strategy (1): Enhance scientific understanding of estuarine ecosystem processes and functions.
Strategy (2): Collect important baseline data to monitor differences over time and for comparing different areas.
Strategy (3): Identify priority resources and monitor the impacts of human stresses.
Strategy (4): Maintain effective management activities and develop effective mechanisms for accountability.
Strategy (5): Establish a multi-disciplinary management advisory.

Objective: Make Coastal Preserve management processes visible, coherent, accessible, and acceptable to the people of Mississippi.
Strategy (1): Actively engage the state, local government, and local citizens early in the formulation and development of all Coastal Preserves Program ecosystem management activities.
Strategy (2): Provide opportunities for public review and comment to all proposed management actions.
Strategy (3): Promote opportunities to involve public stewardship in proposed management actions.
Strategy (4): Provide timely updates on management changes.

8. Increase public awareness and interest in the values and functions of coastal wetlands, their habitats, and the ecosystems they are dependent upon.

Objective: Develop and deliver educational materials and programs to inform the public about wetland species, their habitats, and their value to human beings.
Strategy (1): Develop four public information brochures or pamphlets about coastal wetland protection programs and local wetland functions by 2008.
Strategy (2): Develop and deliver three educational programs per year that enhance public awareness and understanding of estuarine ecosystems and human effects on them.
Strategy (3): Develop and provide public use of Coastal Preserve lands for environmental education.
Strategy (4): Develop and participate on two public outreach and education programs in high priority resource areas by 2008.

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Deer Island Restoration Project Photo Gallery

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Coastal Preserves Related Laws

Memorandum of Understanding between the Secretary of State's Office and the Department of Marine Resources

Coastal Barrier Resources Act

Coastal Wetlands Protection Act

Coastal Wetlands Planning Protection and Restoration Act

Coastal Wetlands Protection Act for Exempt Activities

Coastal Zone Management Act

Emergency Wetlands Resources Act of 1986

Estuaries and Clean Water Acts of 2000

Evaluation of Coast Wetlands

North American Wetlands Conservation Act

Wild and Scenic Rivers Act

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