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Bayou Cocodrie hosts foresters

Ferriday — Forestry experts from across the South flocked to Bayou Cocodrie National Wildlife Refuge Thursday to learn about techniques the refuge is implementing to manage its forests.

John Simpson, complex forester for the Lower Mississippi River Refuge complex, showed 123 guests around four different stages of forestry development on the refuge.

“Guests could see how we’ve improved wildlife habitat with forest management,” Simpson said. “We focused on conditioning what we think is best for wildlife, and showed examples of that type of forest management.”

Simpson said the guests from the Southern Hardwood Forestry Group included professional foresters, researchers, professors, government foresters and private foresters and landowners.

“They meet twice a year at various places throughout the South and discuss management options,” Simpson said.

Simpson said Thursday was a chance for him to show off the refuge.

“Mainly we showed what management has been done on the refuge and got input to see if we’re on the right track,” he said.

Simpson said Bayou Cocodrie’s management goals are different than many foresters, because the refuge’s goal is wildlife habitat.

“A lot of times people are not familiar with management for wildlife,” he said.

Simpson said the event was also a chance for newcomers to see what nature has to offer in the Miss-Lou.

“A lot of people had never been to this part of the state and didn’t know what we had,” he said. “We could showcase the natural resources in our community.”

Simpson said the Southern Hardwood Forestry Group meeting allowed foresters to network with one another and also showed people how to manage their property, not just for profits, but also for quality hunting areas.

Simpson said forest management strategies depend on why the management is needed, and the refuge’s number one goal is to manage for wildlife.

“Migratory birds is our first objective,” he said. “Then threatened species like the Louisiana Black Bear. And we also provide for hunting, fishing, outdoor activities, environmental education and photography.”

Simpson said maintaining forests for deer hunting requires knowledge of what deer eat and how to maintain those resources.

“You have to balance for wildlife food sources,” he said. “Deer eat woody vegetation. A lot of people think they live on acorns, but they have to have woody vegetation on the floor.”

Simpson said an important part of maintaining forests for birds is to understand that birds need food sources (insects) at different levels from the floor to the treetops.

“They like to be in tree tops and fly down to lower levels of the forest and go back up,” he said.

Simpson said forest management with a focus on wildlife habitat is growing in popularity due to the popularity of hunting clubs.

Simpson said it was a privilege to host the event.

“It was very enjoyable and real exciting,” he said. “It’s nice to have some peers look at what we’ve been doing.”

Simpson said several out-of-town guests stayed in hotels in Natchez or Vidalia, and the Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office allowed the group to use its community center for lunch.