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June 6, 2023

Improving Water Quality and Reducing Flooding


Story by William H. Funk

Jim Ingram is a consultant, based in Madison, Mississippi, specializing in office buildings used by law and other professional firms. Founder of Ingram Consulting LLC, he supervised the leasing for approximately eleven million square feet of office properties throughout the Southeast and Southwest. While serving as Chief Investment Officer at Hertz Investment Group in Jackson from 2012 through 2022, he led the acquisition of 31 office properties, totaling $1.7 billion in investment.

Prior to that, Ingram worked for Parkway Properties, a publicly traded real estate investment trust, for 23 years. At Parkway, he bought or sold over 130 office properties, valued at approximately $4 billion. “I negotiate for a living,” he said. But the business of buying office buildings and representing law firms is only part of his background; much more evident when speaking with him is Ingram’s palpable love for the natural world, and his own actions on behalf of our common future.

Ingram owns 760 acres near the tiny hamlet of Satartia, Mississippi (pop. 41 as of 2020), about 45 miles north of Madison on the banks of the Yazoo River, about 45 miles north of Madison. Of this acreage, he counts 120 acres as “virgin timber” hardwoods and 640 acres under contract with the USDA’s Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE) program, a down-to-earth contractual opportunity for private landowners to rehabilitate their low-lying landscapes that provides habitat for migratory waterfowl and other wetland wildlife; “improves water quality by filtering sediments and chemicals; reduces flooding; recharges groundwater; protects biological diversity; provides resilience to climate change; and provides opportunities for educational, scientific and limited recreational activities.”

Upon purchase, Ingram’s new property was already under contract with GreenTrees, but he didn’t know a great deal about what that might mean for his future land use. It came to Steve Burgess, a GreenTrees forester since 2012 after a 35-year career with the Mississippi Forestry Commission, to lend some insights into what Ingram could achieve, financially and personally, simply by letting his trees grow.

Burgess, who grew up in this rural, conservative area, says that with regard to carbon capture, locals generally “don’t understand what that entails. You’re talking about selling something you can’t touch, taste, smell, or see.” But CO2 capture speaks in a universal language; the most hardened and skeptical traditionalist, when offered a generous check for sitting back and watching his new stands of hardwood trees as they imperceptibly help heal the planet, can only conclude that, strange though it may initially seem, this may well be both a legitimate and rewarding endeavor after all.

Ingram, an experienced and perhaps therefore a cautious investor, remembers all too well the moment he was first initiated by Burgess into the seemingly radical idea of planting trees for earned income. “Steve called one day and said that GreenTrees wanted to replant hardwoods all around my property. For free. I said, ‘Really? Let me get this straight: I’m going to get paid to do a good thing for the environment?’” Ingram said that Burgess provided “fabulous” satellite imagery of his property, detailing where replanting in hardwoods would reduce flood damage.

Related Information: GreenTrees Flood and Drought Replanting Program

Flooding is a perpetual threat in the Delta; in February 2022 Satartia’s residents were grew sick, with 49 hospitalized, and were forced to evacuate after a carbon pipeline ruptured due to heavy rains and shifting subsoil. Ingram’s growing trees therefore amount to a long-term investment, both for him personally and for the planet, storing more and more pollutive carbon dioxide every year, upward numbers which are affirmed by his steadily increasing CO2 carbon-capture checks from GreenTrees.

Growing up hunting deer and waterfowl, Ingram wanted his land to reflect that heritage, a wilderness of healthy forests forming a vibrant, native ecology for native wildlife. And GreenTrees seems to have fit the bill perfectly, he says: “I’m getting paid to do a good thing for the environment. Carbon capture isn’t something that a lot of people know about or understand yet, but how can you go wrong? And everyone I’ve worked with at GreenTrees has been wonderful. This really looks like the wave of the future.”

Ingram especially prefers Nuttall oaks, a relative of the pin and red oak that thrives in the floodplains and bottomlands of the Delta region, for his GreenTrees replanting. Nuttalls are a tough species of hardwood that latch on to the unsteady soils of a wetland environment, stabilizing the soil while providing copious amounts of acorn mast for native wildlife.

Currently GreenTrees is replanting most of the 640 acres in the WRE program, but landowners should know that not all of one’s property need necessarily be enrolled in replanted hardwood forest to qualify for WRE or GreenTrees participation, as other environmentally friendly land uses are welcome. In Ingram’s case, he has carefully set aside 70-80 acres, not for reforestation but wildlife food plots for: corn, Japanese millet, wheat, and rye. Thus, his property’s regional reputation as premier deer and duck habitat.

While the region’s perennial struggle with river flooding, something that will likely only become more pernicious as climate change accelerates the strength and persistence of Gulf storm events, has kept his property’s ground-nesting turkey and quail populations (both threatened, he noted, by rooting feral hogs) at low levels, Ducks Unlimited has provided eight water control structures on his property through DU’s “wetlands and flood attenuation” program, which over time will he hopes provide more durability for wetlands habitat. A low-lying 80-acre portion of his property is flooded before duck season through the end of March, providing excellent waterfowl habitat and hunting opportunities.

“It’s the new WRE timber, the growing hardwoods now at 10-15 feet tall, that GreenTrees is directly involved with,” Ingram says, not what little is left of virgin forest on his property. Older oaky woodlands ultimately store more carbon, but they sequester it much more slowly than the younger, carefully managed forests that GreenTrees works with. And it’s this sense of growth, of manageability for the longest term, that Ingram appreciates the most. “I would recommend GreenTrees to anyone who working with WRE,” he says. And with a son’s and a son-in-law’s families eager to hunt and fish the property when they visit, he sees his branching vistas of greenery reaching for the sky as a “family property for life.”