Hunters Angry Over Blocked Off Roads In Desoto National Forest

"You can see we have no one here.  But that doesn't mean we're going to quit," Johnny Groue said.

Groue and other hunters expressed their disappointment that no lawmakers or members of the U.S. Forest Service showed up at a meeting Thursday night at the Latimer Community Center. They have a lot of questions about why more than 70 miles of roads in the DeSoto National Forest are off-limits to vehicles. Only a representative from Congressman Gene Taylor's office came to listen to the hunters' concerns.

"What they're working on to put this thing in place is primarily the damage to the environment from cross-country and four-wheel vehicles," said Bill Felder.

The hunters say they've also been told that the U.S. Forest Service does not have enough funding to maintain the roads. But they say the government has made plenty of money from recent timber sales.

"They keep telling us they don't have any money. The money's not there," said Matthew Scott of Saucier. "But yet they received $7.4 million in minimum bids for the Hurricane Katrina sales."

The hunters say blocking access to the roads presents safety problems for children, the elderly and the disabled, like 75-year-old Standlish Carroll.

"You standing out there in the main road, and you need to be down there in the branches," said Standlish Carroll of Saucier. "You can't get down there in a vehicle. Not being crippled, no."

That's why Carroll joined other hunters in signing petitions, and preparing to write letters to Congress and anyone who will listen.

"Get the word out," Johnny Groue urged the group. "If we just lay down and die, hey, we feed right into their hands."

The concerned hunters say they will contact other state leaders to find out how to fight to open up the roads to cars and trucks. They plan to hold another meeting in November.