SAUCIER, MS. – The story is contributed from Reporter, Gina Tomlinson at WXXV FOX 25. - "The endangered dusky gopher frog, gopher tortoise, and many other threatened species in Mississippi depend on each other to survive. The rare species make their home inside the Desoto National Forest. Thanks to new funds from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation as well as other organizations, their habitat can thrive.
They can be found along the long leaf pines, hidden deep within areas like the Desoto National Forest, several threatened species, like the tortoise, cling to survive. They’re one step closer to this, thanks to a helping hand from some local conservationists. National Forest of Mississippi Ecosystem Coordinator Jimmy Mordica said, “We have the red cockaded woodpecker. We have the gopher tortoise. We have the black pine snake and the Mississippi dusty gopher frog. We’re growing a habitat, providing space for them and protecting them.”
Crucial to their ecosystem are the long leaf pines, over the years millions of the trees have been lost, impacting the lives of thousands of animals and insects. Thanks to new grants benefiting the Long Leaf Stewardship Fund, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, along with other organizations, are helping restore the habitat. Nature Conservancy Director of Forest Programs Becky Stowe said, “We use what we call prescribed fire to burn the landscape. When we do that, it promotes the grasses and different kinds of wildflowers to come back and those provide food for wildlife like the gopher tortoise.”
The gopher tortoise is one of the threatened species living in the conservation pin, a site made possible by the Long Leaf implementation team. Another restoration effort, a protected habitat for the endangered dusky gopher frog. Organizations involved got to tour the site. U.S. Forest Service Wildlife Biologist Ed Moody said, “They can live for 12 years. There’s many zoos around the country that are helping breed these frogs.”
Right here in the south is where experts say the last few hundred of these subspecies live and besides in ponds, the dusky gopher frogs live within the burrows made by gopher tortoises. The burrow that the turtles make are responsible for housing 300 species of animals and insects. Land Trust Coastal Plain Executive Director Judy Steckler said, “It’s a perfect site for a gopher tortoise. There are many burrows that have been found here that have been found in adjacent areas around here.”
“We want for all of our species to be in here and for people from around the world to be able to come here and say this is what a long leaf pine ecosystem should have,” said Moody."