Choctaw Youth Introduced to Forestry from Beginning to End

By: Jim McAdory, MSU Extension Service Agent for MBCI

The Choctaw Youth Conservation Corps (CYCC) visited Winston County lately, and was introduced to the state’s second leading economic driver, forestry. CYCC is a program operated through the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians (MBCI) that assist youth in not only providing a summer work opportunity, but is as much educational for a select group of tribal youth specifically interested in perusing careers in either agriculture or natural resource management.

With the opening of one of the county’s largest Veneer and Plywood mill, and one of most productive tree producing areas nationwide, it’s only fitting CYCC participants learn about forestry, and the manufacturing side of forestry right here in Louisville.

These youth were introduced to how the mill operates by Mr. A.J. Webb, Sales Representative, and got the chance of a lifetime to have a guided tour by president and CEO of Winston Plywood, Mr. Jon Pierce. The group was amazed by the technology, and process employed by the mill to convert a log into a single sheet of veneer, cut, dry, glue press, and ship to national destinations. A quote from one of the CYCC participants summed up the Mill tour well by stating, “After seeing this; I will appreciate my home, and the log trucks I see on the roads all the time, much more”.

An added bonus to the tour was a visit by Plant Manager, Mr. Ken Carter. Mr. Carter explained to the group just how many jobs were associated with the mill, salary expectations, career opportunities, and shared his personal journey in his manufacturing career. A great experience for CYCC participants to see such an impressive facility, and the men and women that make it work. A very special thanks to Human Resource Manager, Gwenita Mays, this opportunity could not have been possible without her assistance and coordination of the tour.

The group, not only got the opportunity to see a national manufacturing leader in Plywood and Veneer, they also got a chance to see how the mill is supplied by the raw commodity of southern yellow pine. The mill could simply not exist, and neither the jobs for hundreds of local residents, without the supply of trees.

Mr. Scott Jackson, Forest Technician and Kent Hailey, Forest Ranger, both with the Mississippi Forestry Commission, took time to show the group how private and corporate landowners use forest best management practices (BMPs) to grow pines from seedling to mature trees, ready for harvest. The group learned management skills such as: planting techniques, plot density checks, aging tree with increment borer, thinning ages, and basal density importance. One of the most important take home messages for the group, was the fact that trees are a renewable resource, with proper stewardship, can supply all local mills need’s for generations to come, and positively impact not only the economy, but wildlife, and the environment as well.

Introducing young people to skills and career opportunities is a great aspect of events like this and CYCC, but even more important is allowing young people the opportunity to meet and see great people doing what they do for their family and community. Winston Plywood and Veneer, and the Mississippi Forestry Commission can be exceedingly proud of what they do, and the positive role models employed with each organization. Both organizations are true assets to Winston County. On behalf of CYCC and MSU Extension Service, a sincere thank you for a great experience!