The National Natural Landmarks (NNL) Program is a government initiative that aims to encourage the conservation of areas with outstanding natural history in the United States. It is the only national natural areas program in the country that recognizes and identifies the best cases of biological and ecological attributes under the ownership of both the private and the public. They were initiated in May 1962 by Stewart Udall, the US Secretary of Interior. By 2016, there were a total of 599 sites throughout the US that had been put into the National Registry of National Landmarks. These sites were found in 48 different states within the country including, Guam, the US Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico. The state of Mississippi has a total of 5 National Natural Landmarks.
National Natural Landmarks in Mississippi
Mississippi Petrified Forest
The Mississippi Petrified Forest is found near Flora in Madison County, and it is a privately own property. It is believed that the forests were formed more than 30 million years in the past, and the maple and fir logs were washed down the channels of the ancient river to their current location where they were petrified. There are only two of these forests in the eastern region of the US, and the other one is the New York’s Gilboa Fossil Forest. The site was named in 1965 as one of the NNL in the US and is, therefore, the oldest in Mississippi.
Harrell Prairie Hill
Harrell Prairie Hill is also known as Harrell Prairie Botanical Area, and it covers an area of 65 hectares. The property is publicly owned, and it is located in the Scott County, Mississippi. The site is covered with tallgrass prairie, and it is a nature reserve, which is an exemplary remnant of the Jackson Prairie Belt in the state of Mississippi. The site was named as National Natural landmarks in May 1976, and the Forest Service declared as a Botanical area in 1980. The site contains the least disturbed and the largest Jackson Prairie in the State of Mississippi.
Green Ash-Overcup Oak-Sweetgum Research Natural Areas
These areas are found in the Delta Natural Forest, and they are located in Sharkey County, Mississippi. They are public property, and in May 1976, they were named National Natural Landmarks. The whole of Delta National Forest covers an area of 95 square miles. The Delta Forest is one out of the only six National Forests which lie wholly in one county, and it is considered to be the only bottomland hardwood forest within the National Forest. The site represents a rare pristine bottomland hardwood forests.
Evaluating National Natural Landmarks
The Natural National Landmarks program have the sole mandate of recognizing sites with significant biological and geological importance and tries to strengthen the appreciation and conservation of natural heritage in the country by the public. Any potential NNL is typically evaluated based on different factors such as the value of education and science, diversity, rarity, illustrative value, and outstanding condition. The interior secretary is responsible for designating such areas.