Environmentalist Says Protected Trees Being Cut For Timber

Our journey began by boat, traveling up the scenic Pascagoula River. Four wheelers took us deep into the woods of George County.

Large oak and cypress trees provide a canopy of shade along the dirt trail. The Wildlife Management Area covers tens of thousands of acres. But we have a specific spot in mind. After a few miles we spot the downed trees.

Cut logs and large stumps are clearly visible along the edge of the woods near planted wildlife food plots.

"It's been really disturbing because we've seen a large number of acorn bearing trees of some size that have been cut down in an area where the trees are supposed to be preserved," Becky Gillette with the Mississippi Sierra Club.

Within just a few acres we find a similar scene again and again. Large logs lie in the tall grass. The remaining stumps are scattered alongside the forest.

We contacted the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, the state agency which oversees management of this land. Spokesman Jim Walker told WLOX News "We are conducting an internal investigation into the tree removal. If it is proven there was any excessive or illegal tree removal, those responsible will be held accountable."

Walker says it's his understanding the trees may have been taken down to expand the wildlife plots. But since many of the trees are acorn bearing, Gillette questions that motive.

"I don't know how anybody can say we're enlarging the wildlife plot or whatever the excuse might be for this," Gillette said. "There was no reason to cut down these trees, because they were providing food for wildlife."

Walker says the results of the investigation should be available in a week to 10 days. We stopped by the headquarters of the Pascagoula River Wildlife Management Area in George County looking for some comment or explanation. The gate was locked and there was no one around when we visited early this afternoon.