Chief of the Forest

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D. JaSal Morris, Forest Supervisor of the Cherokee National Forest

D. JaSal Morris took over as Forest Supervisor of the Cherokee National Forest in October. Before coming to his new office in Cleveland, Tenn., Morris worked in the Chattahoochee- Oconee, Francis Marion, Sumter and George Washington national forests. After a couple of months on the job overseeing 30 campgrounds and 600 miles of trails, he sat down for an interview with Get Out.

Q & A

Have you found a favorite spot in the Cherokee yet? What about favorite places at your previous posts?

Because I haven’t been here very long, I am still taking it all in. One of the spots I enjoyed on the Francis Marion National Forest was Buck Hall Recreation Area.

This site is situated along the Intracoastal Waterway near Charleston, S.C. It is a good spot for hiking, fishing and camping. It is also one of the best shrimp baiting areas.

On the Chattahoochee I enjoyed Lake Winfield Scott Recreation Area. Lake Winfield Scott is a beautiful 18-acre lake where there are opportunities for hiking, fishing and camping.

What are some of the specific challenges facing the CNF?

Some of the challenges we are facing include restoring the landscape by helping to bring the forest environment to a more natural state; continuing to meet the needs of visitors and those interested in national forest management by being flexible and cost efficient; and finding a balance between the numerous uses and the many natural resources.

Do you anticipate any new developments in terms of recreation in the CNF in the coming years?

JM: Over the past few years we’ve had the opportunity to make some major upgrades of several of our developed recreation sites and trails.

We are very proud of what we have now. I think our current focus will be to continue to enhance and maintain our existing facilities.

Many recreation areas are adding or increasing usage fees. Do you expect any such increases in the Cherokee?

We look very carefully at adding or increasing recreation fees and only recommend them when they are absolutely necessary for proper maintenance of a recreation site. Right now I do not see any major increases for this year.

What is the biggest thing a camper needs to know about the forest before visiting?

Before coming to camp, I would suggest that anyone visit our website at fs.usda. gov/cherokee or call any of our offices to get the latest information and find the type of experience they are interested in. Visitors need to be aware that conditions can change rapidly in a mountainous forest environment. Folks should be prepared for all types of hazards — rain, wind, heat, cold, wildlife, vehicle breakdowns. I would encourage them to familiarize themselves with outdoor safety information and be prepared.

From the camper's perspective, what is different about visiting a National Forest versus a National Park?

National Forests and National Parks are similar but different. National parks emphasize strict preservation of pristine areas. They focus on protecting natural and historic resources.

National forests emphasize not only resource protection, but other kinds of use as well. Under the concept of “multiple use,” national forests are managed to provide Americans with a wide variety of services and commodities.

One major thing visitors might observe is that national parks generally have well-defined entrances, while national forests do not. There are dozens of entry points to national forests. Also there can be definite differences in the basic rules and regulations that govern the activities so visitors should make themselves familiar with each area’s information.

Do you have a chance to get outdoors much? What outdoor activities do you enjoy?

I do not get out as much as I should. I enjoy getting near or in the water. I also enjoy gardening and being outside as much as possible.

What do you think are some of the CNF’s biggest assets?

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Cherohala Skyway

One of our most important assets is our talented employees. We are fortunate to have a very skilled and dedicated group of natural resource management specialists and technicians who truly care about people and the land.

Another very important asset of the Cherokee and other national forests is clean water. Millions of people drink water that originates from the watersheds located on our national forests. Water is one of the most important natural resources flowing from forests.

The Forest Service manages the largest single source of water in the nation, with about one-fifth originating from 193 million acres of national forest land. We support stewardship efforts at all levels of the organization to promote healthy, sustainable watersheds fundamental to ecosystems and people.

Other assets of the Forest include an extremely diverse ecosystem, both terrestrially and aquatically. Also, we are Tennessee’s largest tract of public land. That in itself is a tremendous asset to all of us. And, without doubt the natural beauty of the Cherokee National Forest is certainly a significant asset to those that visit the forest.

How does it compare to your previous posts in the Chattahoochee and Francis Marion?

The Cherokee compares very well. The Chattahoochee and Oconee NF’s and the Francis Marion and Sumter NF’s have similar assets, especially when it comes to a dedicated workforce and providing clean water for surrounding communities. Each national forest strives to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of their forests to meet the needs of present and future generations. Clean water is not only an important recreational asset, but it is vital to our very existence.

National forests have many different user groups and interests. What is your philosophy on sharing the forest among these groups?

Our national forests are important to many people for many reasons and they belong to all of us. Our management goal is to seek a balance among the various natural resources and demands for use. Our mandate is to provide wood, water, forage, wildlife and recreation to the nation. Though that is a challenging task, we strive to provide meaningful recreational experiences and other uses of the national forest, while conserving and enhancing the resources.

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