By Karen Nelson
Biloxi (Feburary 9, 2007)- The Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain and the Sun Herald have formed a foundation with the mission of replacing thousands of South Mississippi trees lost to Hurricane Katrina. The foundation will plant trees today at schools in the coastal counties as a kickoff to “Replant South Mississippi.” The date is significant because Mississippi has celebrated Arbor Day on the second Friday in February since 1926 as a day to plant trees and flowers around schoolhouses across the state.
The foundation is working with two grants, $50,000 from the Mississippi Forestry Commission and $30,000 from the Sun Herald, to be used in the urban-reforestation partnership with communities in Harrison, Hancock, Jackson, Pearl River, Stone and George counties.
Judy Steckler, director of the Land Trust, said there will be plantings at other special events in the spring and summer, then a major tree planting across South Mississippi in early fall.
With information she has gathered from tree surveys by visiting arborists, Steckler said she estimates Katrina and the rebuilding afterward have killed 300,000 trees in South Mississippi. Replanting is expected to take several years.
The Mississippi Forestry Commission estimates 1.5 million trees damaged and a half-million destroyed statewide with the South Mississippi counties suffering the worst losses, especially to large oak and pine trees.
“Smart (population) growth in the wake of Hurricane Katrina is critical, especially in rural areas where unprecedented growth is taking place,” said Sun Herald Publisher Ricky Mathews. “The number of trees being lost in the rural areas is like a second hurricane, only this time it’s not caused by wind or water but by growth and development.”
The Sun Herald donated the $30,000 from the sale of two books it published on Hurricane Katrina. A further $100,000 from the book sales was used to help stabilize historic buildings on the Coast.
Mathews said the replanting foundation will pattern its work after a program McClatchy Newspapers, owners of the Sun Herald, launched in Sacramento, Calif., in 1982. The California program, called “Community Shade” and “Neighborwoods,” has helped businesses and homeowners build an urban forest in that state’s capital with plantings, education on how to save trees, and classroom programs.
The foundation plans a website, which can be accessed at the Sun Herald, and will provide expert advice on planting and smart urban growth issues using expertise available through the Land Trust and other sources.
The Land Trust will seek grants from other public and private sponsors to help purchase trees and provide programs to teach students and adults how to properly plant new trees. Ocean Springs arborist David Minkler is serving as consultant to the partnership.
Steckler said the foundation encourages planting in yards and public places and will find active residents in each county to come up with a strategic plan. “The goal is to replant and regreen South Mississippi,” she said.
To read more, visit the Sun Herald.
Together, let’s ‘Replant South Mississippi’
Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain
Mississippi Forestry Commission