Residents Strive To Keep Forest Standing

Members of the Sierra Club came to the Ocean Springs Yacht Club to discuss the what's on the minds of forest officials and to perhaps change their minds.

Desoto National Forest is Mississippi's largest national forest covering more than 500,000 acres. It's known for its natural beauty of trails, streams, and wilderness. However the Forest Service has proposed what it calls "ecosystem restoration" which would allow the thinning out, and in some areas, the disappearance of trees.

"Unfortunately we're seeing terms like ecosystem restoration or reducing the fire danger and all they are is just an excuse to log at the taxpayers expense. Understand this would taxpayers spend more to subsidize timber cutting than we get out of it, so it's a losing proposition for the taxpayer," Sierra Club member Becky Gillette said.

Gillette and other Sierra Club members see the views of the forest service as a thinly veiled excuse to give money to the timber interest.

But the planning team leader of the Desoto National Forest Service believes thinning and clear cutting now will help preserve the future growth of the forest.

"Right now the president's initiative is for 20 million acres. The national forest systems is 191 million acres, so there's a lot of acreage that won't be affected by this proposal," Ron Smith said.

The Senate Energy Committee is expected to take up the bill by the end of next month. It could reach the full Senate late this summer.

A somewhat similar forest measure died in the Senate last year.