Vendors flood the exit gate of MWF Extravaganza

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A flood of exits is plaguing the Mississippi Wildlife Federation’s upcoming annual Wildlife Extravaganza. ‘Ganza ’19 has lost some of its biggest names.

Two of the largest groups to leave are the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, and Primos Hunting. Both exhibitors announced they will not be a part of this year’s event.

Monday afternoon at around 4:30 p.m., the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks pulled out of the event expressing their frustration with being confused for the MWF. In part, the MDWFP stated on its website: “The MDWFP is NOT a sponsor of the Extravaganza, nor do the MDWFP or the Commission have any control over the actions of the Federation. Earlier today, the Commission, meeting by specially-called teleconference on Monday, July 29, 2019, voted unanimously to withdraw from the Extravaganza, and participation in future events with the Federation, until further notice.”

This unprecedented action opened the floodgates, and vendors have been exiting the MWF event to show support for the victims of the Great Backwater Flood of 2019.

Primos Hunting exited the event saying, “We support the Mississippi Wildlife Federation mission ‘to conserve Mississippi’s natural resources and protect our wildlife legacy.’ However, we find it difficult to support its recent decisions. For Primos Hunting, our decision not to attend this year’s Wildlife Extravaganza is about supporting the people of the Mississippi lower Delta, all of whom are our friends and family. We’ll be watching the situation closely and discussing ways to support those who have been impacted by the floods. As always, Speak The Language.”

It is not clear whether some of the recent decisions are about the MWF’s official stance opposing finishing the pumping station at Steele Bayou or in support of flood victim Victoria Darden.

Darden has become the face and focal point of the flood since MWF denied her a booth at its event. Darden wanted a booth to spread the word on the flood, its causes and its impact on wildlife in the area. She and several volunteers raised over $3,000 to organize and print pamphlets to explain their plight to people at the Extravaganza. Darden was later invited to join the Mississippi Ag booth, but it appears that was too little, too late.

 

The Great Backwater Flood of 2019

At the height of the flood, the South Delta had over 550,000 thousand acres of land underwater, including over 220,000 acres of cropland.

That includes all of Darden’s 1,100 acres of farmland.

Victoria Darden in a field in 2016 versus that same field in 2019.

The human impact includes almost 500 homes water damaged or destroyed, and several businesses closing their doors. Farming in the South Delta has been all but canceled for the year.  Wildlife has also been devastated. Every morning the roads have been littered with the carcasses of animals that have nowhere to go. Predator and prey have been forced onto the same small patches of land, and the sight of starving deer has become the new normal.

Melissa Lum Lyons caught this photo of a starving deer on the 465 Levee.

The water is now slowly receding out of the South Delta after five long months of flooding. Most area residents are putting the blame firmly on the Environmental Protection Agency for not allowing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to finish the project to move water out of the Backwater; it vetoed completing the pumps in 2008. Victims have organized and are using their newfound power to put pressure on groups that do not support the pumping project.

The MWF is in their cross hairs, as its official stance opposes completing the pumps that could have prevented much of the flooding this year.

A Little Background History

After the devastating Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, the USACE began the Mississippi Rivers and Tributaries Project, designed to minimize the impact of future flooding from the Mississippi River. In 1941, part of the project was changed to stop the Eudora Floodway in Arkansas and move that water through the South Delta instead. Over the next 70 years, the Corps constructed levees and dug channels to force the water in this part of the Delta toward the Steele Bayou. In 1969, the Corps built a control structure at Steel Bayou with gates that could be closed when the Mississippi River was high. The plan was to build pumps to move water out of the South Delta to alleviate flooding there even when those gates were closed.

In 1973, President Richard Nixon created the EPA. The new agency began studying the impact of USACE projects on the environment, among others, including the pumping station at Steele Bayou. After more than three decades of research and political management, in 2008, the EPA vetoed completing the planned pumps, citing potential “adverse effects” on 67,000 acres of wetlands, fisheries and wildlife.

Several environmental organizations have championed wetlands protection. Included in that group is the Mississippi Wildlife Foundation. Environmentalists have organized protests and are politically well connected, enough to continuously block the pumps project in the South Delta.

Canceling the pumps left South Delta residents in an area specifically designed and constructed by the USACE to hold water behind the Steele Bayou gates.

Since the Steele Bayou control structure was built in 1969, the South Delta has flooded numerous times. The flood of 1973 was the most harmful prior to this year’s Great Backwater Flood of 2019. Residents of the area have been fighting to have the pumps installed since 1973. The 2019 flood has galvanized flood victims to organize in opposition to anyone continuing to block the pumps project.

Fast Forward to Monday

The victim’s current focus is the MWF. Its annual Wildlife Extravaganza is the MWF’s biggest fundraiser, typically kicking off the state’s hunting season for many Mississippians. Organizers for flood victims have formed groups advocating a boycott of this year’s MWF event and the MWF as a whole, including a Boycott the MWF and the Wildlife Extravaganza Facebook group.

A growing list of vendors is pulling out in support of the pumps project and the residents of the flooded areas.

The impact and response from the MWF and its event remains to be seen, but its position to date is clear. Here is an audio recording of Lindsey Lemmons, executive director of the MWF, laughing at the idea of installing the pumps in the South Delta.

In response to the Vicksburg Daily News’ multiple calls, Lemmons refused to comment, referring us to MWF Board President Jeanne Jones.

Jones, at the time of publication, has not returned our call.