The DeSoto National Forest is federally owned and managed by the U.S.D.A. Forest Service. In 2001, approximately fifty percent of the southern DeSoto unit of DeSoto National Forest was in Longleaf Pine stands of various ages, including 34,000 acres of mature (70 or more years) stands. In 2001, the northern Chickasawhay unit contained more than 7,700 acres of mature Longleaf Pine, as well almost 22,000 acres of Longleaf Pine in the 61 to 70 year age class. These older forests provide some of the best examples of what much of the southern Mississippi landscape looked like before extensive manipulation. The rest of DeSoto National Forest consists mostly of other pine species, pine-hardwood mix, and nearly 85,000 acres of hardwood, much of which is 60 or more years old.
The site?s primary importance to bird life lies in its mature, periodically burned pine forests, where Red-cockaded Woodpecker and Bachman?s Sparrow occur in moderate abundance. Red-cockaded Woodpeckers continue to be re-introduced into DeSoto with apparent success.
Other species of conservation priority that occur regularly in DeSoto National Forest include Swainson?s Warbler, southeastern American Kestrel, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Chuck-will?s-widow, Worm-eating Warbler and Prairie Warbler. DeSoto National Forest is the only known location in southern Mississippi of suspected breeding by Worm-eating Warbler.
The potential for mismanagement due to inadequate monitoring exists in DeSoto National Forest. The Forest Service in Mississippi currently tracks Bachman?s Sparrow habitat by monitoring ?the numbers of acres of Longleaf and Slash Pine types that are between zero and 10 years old,? despite that this is probably not the primary habitat for this species in Mississippi. A thorough study on how Bachman?s Sparrows actually use different habitats is needed. Additionally, much more information is needed regarding the abundance and distribution of Bachman?s Sparrow; simply managing for Red-cockaded Woodpecker and assuming these practices are equally beneficial for Bachman?s Sparrow is probably not enough. According to rough estimates, DeSoto National Forest could host a minimum of ten to forty percent of the Mississippi population of Bachman?s Sparrow. Combined, this site and the Homochitto National Forest easily contain the vast majority of Bachman?s Sparrows, and all of the Red-cockaded Woodpeckers in southern Mississippi.
The Forest Service is currently (2002 to 2003) reviewing policy on all terrain and off-road vehicle use; expanded areas for this activity are a potentially serious disturbance to both Red-cockaded Woodpecker and Bachman?s Sparrow, and additional all terrain and off-road vehicle trails also create the potential for erosional damage and wildfire. It is worth noting that the hiking, horse and bicycle trails of DeSoto National Forest constitute most of the very few such trails anywhere in southern Mississippi.