Mississippi Travel Guide

The Town’S Economy Is Doing Much Better Thanks To The Boom In Eco-Tourism. The Mayor Applied To The Federal Government For A Brass Plaque Declaring The Forest A National Natural Landmark. Television News Programs Covered The Town’S Celebration On The Day It Was Erected. The Convenience Store Has Started Selling Nature Blogs And Patagonia Clothing In Addition To Their Usual Items, And Profits Have Doubled.

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Regardless Of The Question Of Its Virgin State, The Bienville Pines Is Exceptional In Its Age, Magnitude, And Beauty. There Is No Other Place Where One Can Go To View An Area As Large And With The Number Of Trees Of The Age Of These. The Area Is Also A Classic Example Of “Undisturbed” Ecological Succession. If Only.

I Wondered About This Town, Named Forest, Which No Longer Had A Trail Through Its Most Famous Forest. The Name Of The Town Came From A Commodity That Was Exploited. This Flatland With Tall Pines Was The Perfect Place For A Logging Operation. So They Came, And They Logged. Everything. Even The Biggest Bienville Pines Were Logged, Probably Between 1850 And 1860. This Is Not An Undisturbed Forest. But In The Second (Or Third) Round Of Logging, The Pines In This One Small Area Were Left Alone. It’S Not That They Were Difficult To Get To In Fact, They Were Right Next To The Center Of Logging Operations. Some Have Speculated That The Pines Were Spared Because The Company Could Log There At Any Time, And So Harvested The More Remote Areas First. I Would Speculate That The Trees Were Left Because Even The Loggers Loved Their Beauty And Shade, And Therefore Saved Some For Their Own Pleasure.

What Convinced Me That Emotion, Not Economics, Saved The Pines Was What Happened In 1935, When The Federal Government Was Purchasing The Bienville Lumber Company’S Acreage For A National Forest. The Lumber Company Planned To Donate Twenty Acres Of The Old Pines To The City Of Forest For A Park, But, Because Of The Great Depression, The City Had No Funds For The Things Normally Needed In A Park, Such As Picnic Tables And Restrooms. The City Turned Down The Offer, And The Bienville Pines Forest Was Included In The Land Acquired By The Forest Service. According To The Records, “At The Time Of The Acquisition, A ‘Gentleman’S Agreement’ Was Struck Between The Forest Service And The Lumber Company To The Effect That This Area Would Be Left Intact And Never Cut.” Obviously, Someone Cared About This Forest.

The Area Around The Big Pines Was Designated A Scenic Area, And The Forest Service Installed Water Fountains, Tables, Grills, And Restrooms. The Map From 1964 Shows A Winding Trail, And In 1976 Someone Thought Enough Of The Forest To Nominate It As A National Natural Landmark. It Was Awarded This Recognition A Fact That Surprised Even The Ranger Who Found The Letter In The File.

Incredulous That This Abused-Looking Plot Of Trees Would Be Considered A National Landmark, I Called The National Park Service To Speak With The Coordinator Of The National Landmarks Program’S Southeast Region. As It Turned Out, He Had Never Been To Bienville Pines, So I Suggested He Might Want To Take A Look. He Called The Forest Service Ranger And Then Called Me Back. He Explained That They Had Done A “Mechanical Reduction” To Reduce The Risk Of Fire So Close To A Populated Area, And That This Was “Standard Forestry Practice.”

Yeah, Whatever. This Is No Longer A Place Of Recreation Or Non-Manipulation; This Is No Longer A Place Of Beauty. No Wonder The People Of Forest No Longer Know Where It Is.

Under Different Circumstances, This Forest Could Have Been The Gem Of The Town. It Could Have Attracted Ecotourists And Inspired Children To Study And Love Nature. It Could Have Brought More Customers To The Convenience Store And To Ester’S. Forest Would Be Called Forest For A Good Reason. There Are 178,000 Acres In This National Forest, Yet They Couldn’T Leave This Little Bit Alone. Normally I Leave A Forest Feeling Great, But Today I Was Feeling Down.

I Stopped By Ester’S Shack For A Sweet Tea On My Way Out Of Town.

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