Mississippi Forestry: Celebrating 75 years
By By Steve Swogetinsky/The Meridian Star
May 7, 2001
When you talk about the Mississippi Forestry Commission, Smokey the Bear and keeping watch over the woods, fire towers might come to mind.
Smokey is still around, but fire towers are a thing of the past, according to Ed Brown, area forester.
The Mississippi Forestry Commission is celebrating its 75th anniversary.
Brown and Lauderdale County Forester Randy Bowles met with The Meridian Star's editorial board to discuss the commission's mission and the timber industry.
Timber is big business in Mississippi. Forestry and forest products account for 10 percent of all jobs in Mississippi and 25 percent of manufacturing jobs. Forestry and forestry products also mean about $11.4 billion a year to the state economy.
The commission is a public service agency created by the Mississippi Legislature. It provides leadership in forest protection, management and information.
The state is divided into six forestry districts. Lauderdale County is located in the South Central District, along with Clarke, Wayne, Jasper, Newton, Scott, Rankin, Smith, Simpson, Jefferson Davis, Covington and Jones counties.
Through its management services, the commission places a priority on serving the public schools through the management of timber on 16th Section lands.
Figures show that $49,978,263 worth of 16th Section land timber was sold between 1993 and 2000 in the South Central District, with the money going to help area schools.
Other priorities of commission include fighting forest fires and helping private landowners manage their forests.
The forestry commission maintains about 200 fire suppression units. A fire unit includes a bulldozer equipped with a fire plow and transported by a truck. Each unit is manned by a two-person crew.
The timber industry and the poultry industries trade off as Mississippi's No. 1 agricultural product.
Brown said 62 percent of the state's land area is forest. Of that, 31 percent is pine; 52 percent is hardwood; and, 17 percent is mixed.
Brown said there is a misconception that all of Mississippi's forests are being planted in pine.
Mississippi is a national leader in tree planting, consistently ranking top among the other states in planting the most trees. On an average, 306,477 acres of trees are planted each year.
Brown said that investing in timber is still a good bet, despite pressures on the market being felt from timber imports from Canada and other countries.
Brown noted that the city of Meridian blends in well with the forests.
Steve Swogetinsky is regional editor of The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3217, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.