Kemper County Farm Bureau lobbies for tree removal

By By Sheila Blackmon/The Meridian Star
April 26, 2001
The Kemper County Farm Bureau's board of directors wants Mississippi Department of Transportation officials to remove trees from state right-of-ways.
The board's recommendation process could end up in a state legislative lobbyist's hands, but it begins with MDOT. Board member Oliver Limerick said the board voted earlier this year to send a letter to MDOT requesting they cut the trees.
He said private landowners' cutting their timber next to MDOT's trees creates a narrow strip of tall trees more vulnerable to wind. Because most of MDOT's trees are pines and because pines have a long tap root, roadside trees are more likely to snap in severe windstorms, he said.
He said trees shade roads and increase driving hazards due to ice and snow. He added that MDOT's timber sales compete with private enterprise. Also, he said, pine trees block drivers' view of the countryside and shrubs such as red tops would be prettier and safer.
David Thompson, MDOT roadside development manager, wrote in recent correspondence that MDOT officials must cooperate with the Mississippi Forestry Commission and the Mississippi State University School of Forestry in planting, thinning, cutting and selling timber growing or standing on the right-of-way.
Right-of-ways have an area called a "recovery zone" or "clear zone" adjacent to the highway in which trees are not allowed so that drivers can regain control of cars leaving the road, he wrote.
He went on to say MDOT "is not in the timber-growing business," but can have trees removed for construction or safety reasons.
If timber is removed as part of a permit, MDOT is reimbursed for timber at the current fair market value, and the funds go back into the general budget, he said. If MDOT contracts out for its removal, it costs $3,000 to $5,000 an acre.
According to Thompson, 99 percent of MDOT's trees are native species, and native vegetation is allowed to develop because it is adapted to the area, is the most cost effective method for roadside management, prevents soil erosion and removes the necessity to mow.
Sheila Blackmon is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call her at 693-1551, ext. 3275, or e-mail her at sblackmon@themeridianstar.com.

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