(Scott County) WLBT-The Bienville National Forest consists of thousands and thousands of acres of woodlands and grasslands and lakes and miles and miles of trails in the central part of Mississippi including a significant area in Scott County.
A National Forest is not a National Park. Andy Hunter is the District Ranger at Bienville. He says the difference in a National Park and a National Forest is in the designated mission of each. It’s pretty simple.
“We are conservation where as the park service is a preservation agency,” said Hunter.
So, if you are looking for national monuments and national treasures like the Battlefield at Vicksburg or the Historic Antebellum Era in Natchez you would be going to a National PARK.
On the other hand, if you are looking for camping and swimming or walking trails, you’d be headed here to a National Forest.
Originally, when this country was still young the National Forests were set up to add to the National Treasury by selling timber from federally owned property. Some timber is still harvested. But right now mostly stuff around this that has been damaged by the pine beetle infestation.
Forester Ron Fisher says the nearby trees are cleared to stop the spreading.
“This is our 5th year of having southern pine beetle. Our efforts are to protect endangered species and private land," said Fisher. "So any time we have a spot around near our red cockaded woodpecker colony we’ll go in and buffer around it.”
Now, the red cockaded woodpeckers and other endangered species, that’s one of the charges of National Forests today; protect them and other plant and animals that are endangered. Some of these trees are natural woodpecker habitat while others have been made to be habitat.
But history is held onto, too. Maria Schleidt is an archeologist with the Forest Service. One of the popular recreational attractions, Marathon Lake, has a timber history.
“This used to be a logging camp that belonged to the Marathon Lumber back between 1921 and 1929,” said Schleidt.
Now, it’s the Marathon Lake recreational area. Christina Harper, the area recreational manager says it’s a popular place.
“We have 34 campsites," said Harper. "There’s opportunity for camping, hiking, fishing and swimming.”
Wilbert Cobb says the Shockalo Equestrian Trail is very popular, too.
“The horse trail is approximately 23 miles long," said Cobb. "Along the trail we have several areas of woodpecker colonies and several low water crossings along the trail.”
So don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees. There’s prairie and lakes and trails in addition to the preservation of the woodlands and wildlife, natural beauty under conservation by the people at the Bienville National Forest.