Established in 1940, Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge is located in three counties (Noxubee, Oktibbeha, and Winston), and was created from lands obtained through the 1930s Resettlement Administration. In 2012 the refuge was renamed Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge in honor of Sam D. Hamilton, a former director of the Fish and Wildlife Service who grew up in this area.
Originally established for the conservation of migratory birds, especially waterfowl, the refuge is also home to the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker and many neotropical migratory bird species which benefit from the variety of habitats the refuge provides. Four green-tree reservoirs, two major lakes (Bluff Lake – 800 acres and Loakfoma Lake – 400 acres), 16 small impoundments, and assorted wetland areas provide important habitat for the wood stork, American alligator, bald eagle, and wintering waterfowl. The National Audubon Society has designated Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge as an Important Bird Area, one of five of global importance in Mississippi.
Each unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System is established to serve a statutory purpose that targets the conservation of native species dependent on its lands and waters. Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge is a key puzzle piece in an interconnecting landscape otherwise dominated by small cities, rural communities, and lands devoted to agriculture and commercial forestry. The primary establishing legislation for the refuge is Executive Order 8444, dated June 14, 1940, with the stated purpose, “…as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife…”
The refuge includes pine forests, bottomland and upland hardwood forests, cypress swamps, and wetlands surrounding the historic Noxubee River whose channel and floodwaters support migratory bird species and a host of native flora and fauna. The refuge promises to conserve and manage its natural diversity by restoring and protecting historic habitats and wildlife while working with partners, listening to the American public, and promoting awareness. Management of the refuge’s habitats are designed to support resources of concern and species of complimentary need. Refuge management will recognize the position of the refuge within the surrounding landscape and target those unique ecological roles it can fulfill within that landscape
Established as Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge on June 14, 1940, the refuge was subsequently renamed Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge by Public Law 112-279 on February 14, 2012.
Prior to 1830 and settlement by early Euro-Americans, northeastern Mississippi was inhabited by several Native American tribes. By the sixteenth century (1700s), these Native Americans had impacted the region’s extensive forests, savannas, and streams through the use of fire. These indigenous people used fire to enhance their food supplies through modification of forest composition and creation of grasslands and agricultural fields. These mound-building people also used fire as a hunting tool, as a symbolic part of ceremonies, and as part of their agriculture practices (i.e., growing corn, beans, and squash) near their settlements. These settlements periodically moved as the soil fertility declined and new agricultural areas were sought.
In 1798, the United States Congress created the Mississippi Territory. In 1830, the Choctaw Nation signed the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, relinquishing all claims to land in Oktibbeha, Noxubee, and Winston counties in Mississippi, allowing for Euro-American settlement of the area. The lands that now are Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge are part of this area.