Numbers provided by the Mississippi Forestry Commission show that the forestry industry in Mississippi contributes approximately $12.8 billion to the state’s economy, along with more than 70,000 jobs and an average of $10.4 million in education through the sale of 16thsection land.
In recognition of that – and Arbor Day, a holiday in which individuals and groups are encouraged to plant trees – the Forrest County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Lamar County Soil and Water Conservation District will hold tree giveaway days during which more than 2,000 free seedlings will be distributed to the public.
“Mississippi has celebrated Arbor Day since 1926, and it’s just a special day to recognize the statewide contributions of trees and forestry,” said Deena Hunter, district administrator with the Forrest County Soil and Water Conservation District. “Each county in the state always recognizes Arbor Day, and you don’t have to be a resident of the county to come get the trees; anyone can come and get them. It helps the wildlife, and it helps the trees.”
The Forrest County Soil and Water Conservation District will hold its giveaway of 1,000 trees at 10 a.m. Feb. 11 at the Forrest County Multipurpose Center, 962 Sullivan Drive in Hattiesburg. The Lamar County Soil and Water Conservation District will follow suit with 1,200 trees at 9 a.m. Feb. 12 at the Lamar County Multipurpose Center, 99 Center Industrial Row in Purvis.
“We try and give each person a couple of trees, but it kind of depends on the crowd, too,” Hunter said. “We’re usually there for probably two or three hours, and then we’ll bring them back to the our office and people can come get what’s left over.
“Our building is closed now, so we’re trying to encourage people just to go to the multipurpose center. If they miss (the event), and there are any trees left over, we’ll usually just leave them on the porch and people will come by and get what they want.”
The trees will be given on a first-come, first-served basis. Trees given away in Forrest County will include common apple, chestnut oak, sawtooth oak, sawtooth gobbler oak, persimmon and Chickasaw plum, while Lamar County participants will see white oak, crabapple, cypress, red oak, Chickasaw plum and persimmon.
“These (trees) are beneficial for native wildlife,” said Lisa Browning, director of the Lamar County Soil and Water Conservation District. “We just want to encourage the community to participate in taking care of our county, in particular our wildlife and our native trees.
“We want to bring conservation awareness to the forefront of people’s minds. What we do today affects tomorrow, and we want to have a good tomorrow.”
It may be beneficial to get to the event early, as the trees may not last very long once the giveaway starts.
“They’re usually gone in about 25 minutes,” Browning said. “We always run out of trees, so it’s first-come, first-served. Generally, we have a very big turnout, and they go very quickly.”
The first Arbor Day in America was originated in April 1872, when an estimated 1 million trees were planted in Nebraska. Although Arbor Day is usually observed in the spring, the date varies depending on climate and suitable planting season.
In Mississippi, Arbor Day is celebrated each year on the second Friday in February.