Ghost Bird Reviews
Involving the economic future of a small town, massive federal funding, and sexy ornithologists.
The film highlights the potential tourism benefits to Brinkley, Arkansas, a depressed area midway between Little Rock and Memphis. The swampy area is a likely habitat for the bird, where business owners and city officials hype the sighting in order to build bird-viewing tourism.
After lengthy explanations on the research of the veracity of the sighting, the film reveals the central cause for the bird's extinction: the clearcutting of hundreds of square miles of old growth forest in an area of Louisiana called the "Singer Tract."
The area "named after the sewing machine company who owned the land was the largest piece of primeval forest left in the South. The logging rights to the Singer Tract had been sold to the Chicago Mill and Lumber Company. The National Audubon Society mounted a campaign to save the Singer Tract but it only accelerated the rate of cutting. The Chicago Mill and Lumber Company had no interest in saving the forest or compromising with John Baker, the president of the National Audubon Society. Baker wanted to buy the rights to the trees and obtained a pledge of $200,000 from the governor of Louisiana for that purpose." (according to an article on the Univ. of Cornell's website)
The same devastating destruction of old forests occurred in Missouri in the 1880's, such that by the "early 1900's, nearly every acre of the vast Ozark forest was cut for firewood, timber and crops," according to a history of Missouri forests. "By the mid-1930s, Missouri's forest and wildlife resources were at an all-time low. The forests were burned and abused. Gravel, eroded from the hillsides, choked the once-clear streams. An estimated 2,000 deer remained in the entire state, and turkeys declined to a few thousand birds in scattered flocks."
What's remains now after long-ago unhindered devastation and destruction are, yes, recovered forests, but also some of the poorest communities in Missouri, like in Shannon County. While these areas in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas have low populations, it's a sad commentary on the mammoth timber and rail businesses that left a land destroyed without much responsibility for cleanup or rebuilding the economies.