Forestry representatives say most people don't think of trees as big business in Mississippi. But the state forestry association says 18 million acres of timberland contributes about $11 billion into Mississippi's economy each year.
"When you talk about forestry, you talk about building products for homes and businesses, plywood and lumber. You also talk about all your paper products and paper mills," Hattiesburg wood supplier Glen Herrin said.
Whether you're talking about jobs or economic development, Herrin says timber, recreation, tree growing and management all coexist.
"Look at our Desoto National Forest just north of here. You have the recreation aspects. People love to go up in those piney woods and work or rather hunt, and we love to work in the piney woods so it can blend together very easily."
Association members say one goal they stick to is trying to maintain a balance between conservation and development. Mississippi Forestry Association Executive Vice President Bruce Alt says, "It's true our biggest enemy in terms of forest land ownership is development. Concrete and asphalt are what we're working against, and that's a part of the American way of life."
However, Alt says the good news is that more people are concerned and involved in better land management to protect their tree investment. The proof of that Alt says is Mississippi has more trees today than ever before.
"Many people use their forest lands to send children to college and they're all interested in how to best manage that resource sustainably over the long term."
Alt says the best management guarantees that trees will keep covering Mississippi forest lands for generations to come.