||Key objectives of the 19,000 acre Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge in Jackson County (extreme southeastern), Mississippi are to recover and protect the Mississippi sandhill crane and to restore and maintain the native wet pine savanna. The Mississippi sandhill crane is an endangered subspecies found in the wild only on and adjacent the refuge. The wet pine savanna is a fire-maintained grassland with scattered pines and a highly species-rich ground cover of graminoids, forbs (including distinctive taxa like carnivorous plants) and small shrubs. It is also one of the more endangered ecosystems with only 305% of the original area of in the southeastern United States remaining. Clewell (1999) defined four distinctive habitats as part of this system: pine flatwoods, wet prairie, cypress flats, and cypress stands. Because of fire suppression, silviculture, and development, these habitats were converted to gallberry and titi thickets, hardwood forests, and forested swamps. Largest challenges in restoration included altered hydrology, woody plant colonization, and invasive plants.
Restoration included a combination of management strategies such as prescribed fire, mechanical treatments to remove woody plants, use of water control structures and creation of small shallow water areas, and pest plant chemical and mechanical treatment. A large and long-term crane population restocking, predator control, protection, and small food plants were other important crane recovery strategies. Several thousand acres of pine savanna were restored. Flowering of native bunchgrasses was the highest in generations. Some of the tracts were used as references sites for other restoration projects. Crane use of restored sites was significant. The crane population increased from 30-35 individuals including 5-6 breeding pairs to over 120 individuals including nearly 25 breeding pairs. Other trust species such as Henslow’s sparrows greatly benefited.