Tour the Conecuh, celebrate 80 years

Published 12:31 am Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Here, members of the Forest Service work with timber harvesters to cut trees in the national forest.

Here, members of the Forest Service work with timber harvesters to cut trees in the national forest.

Eighty years ago, the Conecuh National Forest was established, and to celebrate the anniversary, the Forest Service is inviting the public to take a free, guided tour of the forest next Saturday.

“Eighty years is a relatively short time in the life of a forest, but a lot has happened in that time,” Tim Mersmann, district ranger, said. “The bus tour will highlight the history of the Conecuh and introduce people to some special places and natural inhabitants of the forest.”

Mersmann said the CNF was established by a proclamation from President Franklin D. Roosevelt on July 17, 1936.

It initially included 54,177 acres of cut-over and burned-over lands. Today, it encompasses more than 84,000 acres of productive and biologically diverse forests and wetlands.

The forest includes work of a Civilian Conservation Corps. Company stationed at Open Pond from 1936 to 1942, he said. They built roads and bridges, fire towers, recreation facilities and planted millions of trees. Work of the CCC is still evident and will be featured on the tour, Mersmann said.

“The Conecuh was established in part because of concerns about sustainability of timber supplies for the country,” he said. “Today, timber is in great supply due to activity in the private sector. The value of the Conecuh to the country has shifted to providing public recreation and maintaining rare animals and plants that are no longer commonly found on private lands. We’ll feature some of these rare animals and plants on the tour.”

Mersmann said the tour will run from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m., leaving from and returning to the USDA Service Center on Hwy. 55 south of Andalusia.

Free lunch will be provided and some light walking will be required.

“If you’d like to learn more about this public land treasure in your back yard, register soon,” he said. “We expect space to fill quickly.”

To register for the tour, call 334-222-1125 by Sept. 29.