Tara Wildlife: A Family Legacy of Conservation

By: Amos P. Eno
Posted on:10/25/2016

Before dawn on Thursday morning, I’ll be leaving to attend the fourth iteration of Tara Talks, a conservation conference held at Tara Wildlife in Eagle Lake, Mississippi. The driving force behind the creation of Tara Wildlife and Tara Talks is Magalen “Maggie” Bryant, a dedicated conservationist who has had close ties to my father, Resources First Foundation President and Founder Amos S. Eno, particularly as Chairperson of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation while he was the organization’s Executive Director.

My father will be presenting at the conference this year, and I’ll be sharing updates on this blog and social media throughout the conference, which I will attend from Thursday to Sunday, October 30. But before I start reporting on this year’s conference, I’m writing this now to provide some history of the property on which it is hosted, an history which goes back more than one hundred and fifty years.

The family history on the land began in 1857, when William Purvis, an ancestor of Mrs. Bryant’s late husband J.C. Herbert Bryant, acquired what was then known as the Purvis Grange Plantation in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Less than five years later, Purvis’ life was lost to malaria, and the property was left to his widow and two children. Since then, the property was passed down from generation to generation, until Mrs. Bryant was conveyed a majority interest upon the passing of her husband in 1983.

With control of Purvis Grange in her hands, it did not take long for Mrs. Bryant to bring a philosophy of multi-faceted conservation to the property, incorporating Tara Wildlife Management & Services, Inc. in 1985. To quote Tara’s bio: Our philosophy is founded on a strong commitment to the management, development and sustainable use of a broad spectrum of natural resources. Tara recognizes the importance of wildlife, timber, water, wetlands, agriculture and recreation in maintaining a high quality of life for current as well as future generations.”

To date, all of Tara’s nine thousand acres are under conservation easements, which as of 2001 have been deeded to the non-profit Purvis Grange Foundation. Reaching that goal was not easy; conservation easements did not exist in Mississippi when Mrs. Bryant assumed control of Tara in 1985. However, she worked quickly and closely with then Governor Ray Mabus to rectify that problem with the passage of the Mississippi Conservation Easement Act of 1986, and in July of 1988 helped to form the Delta Environmental Land Trust, the first 501(c)(3) non-profit organization created to hold conservation easements in Mississippi.

Since then, Mrs. Bryant and all involved at Tara gradually worked to place conservation easement on all nine thousand acres of Tara’s property, as mentioned above, and perfect an all-of-the-above model for sustainable resources management on private lands in the Mississippi Delta. Today, Tara Wildlife selectively harvests its bottomland hardwood forests, manages them for deer and turkey hunting, as well as many non-extractive activities such as birding and wildlife watching and photography, hiking, and canoeing, etc.

This management strategy is clearly working; last year, on one walk along Tara’s nature trails I spooked several deer, startling myself in the process, saw at least a half-dozen armadillos and many birds which I could not identify, and found myself in a stare-down with a raccoon in the middle of the trail – I won.

Additionally, Tara is host to several conservation events throughout the year, including summer youth camps, designed to introduce children to natural resource management, the Spring Birding Weekend, Mississippi River Nature Weekend, and of course Tara Talks, which began in October, 2013. This year’s conference is entitled “Surf and Turf,” which hopefully describes both the theme of discussion and the menu.