ST. FRANCISVILLE — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has completed its final Comprehensive Conservation Plan for Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge, and the implementation of that plan depends on one thing: funding.
The final plan, a 219-page document, details the USFWS’s long-range goals and objectives to maintain Cat Island for the benefit of the public. This includes efforts needed to preserve, protect and enhance the fish, wildlife, plants and habitats of the nearly 10,000 acres that have been established as a NWR.
Kent Orment, a wildlife refuge specialist with the Lower Mississippi Refuge Complex, which is headquartered at St. Catherine Creek NWR in Sibley, Mississippi, near Natchez, helps manage Cat Island.
“The goals of the Cat Island plan are to preserve the bottomland hardwood forest for the wildlife species that inhabit the area and for the migratory bird species,” Orment said. “The plan is written as a best-case scenario to manage and preserve the heritage of Cat Island, and it would be amazing if it were fully funded.”
Maintaining and improving access to the property are major goals outlined in the plan as well as active land management, which would include timber harvesting and reforestation in different areas as needed.
Cat Island relies on federal funding. The USFWS does not have adequate funding to staff Cat Island but instead relies on Orment’s office near Natchez and volunteers like the Friends of Cat Island Refuge and the several dozen private landowners to help manage the area. Orment said he is grateful those volunteers have taken an active role in helping with management efforts.
Adding one or two more structures that can facilitate high water along with helping maintaining regular public access to the area are also integral goals of the plan.
Orment said the worst-case scenario for Cat Island would be to do nothing.
“We would do minimal work that would revolve around safety,” he said. “That means we’d have to shut the gate and lock it if the road gets damaged.”
The final plan is available at fws.gov/southeast/planning/pdfdocuments/cat-island-final-ccp.pdf.