THE PINEY WOODS 197 In 1978, Cochran ran for and won the U.S. Senate seat vacated by James Eastland, a position that he still holds today. After eight terms in Congress, in 1988 Lott ran for the Senate seat vacated by John C. Stennis and easily won election. He served in the U.S. Senate from 1989 through 2007, was Senate majority leader, and was a powerful figure in national politics. While Mississippi’s rejuvenated Republican Party consistently won on the national level, a true two-party duel occurred between Democrats and Republicans during the 1980s on the state and local level. In the gubernatorial election of 1991, Kirk Fordice carried all thirteen Pine Belt counties on his way to election as the first Republican governor of Mississippi since Reconstruction. Republicans gained control of the full Mississippi legislature in the election of 2011. Today, the Pine Belt continues to have a strong industrial business presence. Sanderson Farms began in 1947 as a farm supply business, and is now the nation’s third largest poultry producer. The company employs more than 13,000 people and has more than 900 independently contracted growers. Eleven processing plants, ten hatcheries, eight feed mills, and one prepared foods division span five states and fourteen cities. Based in Laurel, Sanderson Farms is the only Fortune 1000 company to be headquartered in Mississippi. The company processes 10.625 million chickens per week and has annual sales of more than $2.8 billion. After seventy years in business, Sanderson Farms continues to be led by a third-generation Sanderson. Joe F. Sanderson, Jr., serves as the current Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Directors. Reed’s Metals began in 1998 in a portable shed in Lawrence County. Today, the company is headquartered on a twenty-acre site in Brookhaven. Over the past twenty years, Bernie Reed has guided the well-known metal roofing and metal building businesses to one of the largest in the South. Currently, Reed’s Metals has ten locations in six states. The Piney Woods also has a strong appreciation of the arts and is home to the Mississippi School of the Arts, as well as the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art, and the Saenger Theater. The Mississippi School of the Arts (MSA) is located in Brookhaven on the historic campus of Whitworth College. MSA opened in 2003 after receiving funding from the 1999 and 2001 legislative sessions. The school accepts eleventh and twelfth grade students and provides programs of study in music, theatre, visual arts, dance, literary arts, and media. The Lauren Rogers Museum of Art began in 1923 when Catherine Marshall Gardiner, Lauren Rogers’s great aunt, donated a collection of almost 500 baskets and artifacts. Today, the Lauren Roger’s Museum of Art serves the community by opening the collections six days a week, sponsoring an educational program, and offering exhibitions that display many various forms of art to the public. The Saenger Theater in Hattiesburg was built in 1929 by the Saenger Amusement Company. The theater originally had an admission of six cents and featured silent movies. In 2000, the building underwent a $3.75 million renovation. Today, the Saenger presents film screenings, and live performances. The Piney Woods today is still a distinguishable bioregion of the state, identifiable by its conifers, rolling terrain, and meandering streams and rivers. However, little of the longleaf ecosystem shaped by Native Americans and encountered by the first Europeans remains. Instead, other faster maturing varieties of pines populate the forestlands of the region. The Mississippi Tree Farm program allows landowners to grow quality forests in a sustainable manner. Likewise, the lands encompassed by the De Soto National Forest and the Homochitto National Forest are under the management of the United States Forest Service. The American Forest Foundation is leading a multi-group public and private partnership to restore longleaf habitat by encouraging private landowners to replant with longleaf pine. The Pascagoula River system is one of the longest rivers that remain unimpeded by dams or other impoundments. A portion of Black Creek is designated as a National Wild and Scenic River, and canoes and kayaks full of those seeking the outdoors paddle its waters. The Okatoma River also attracts tourists to paddle its curving bends and mild rapids. State parks highlight the natural beauty of the region, including Paul B. Johnson State Park south of Hattiesburg, Percy Quinn State Park near McComb, and Lake Lincoln State Park in northern Lincoln County. Numerous state fishing lakes and wildlife management areas dot the region offering fishing and hunting opportunities for residents and visitors. By managing and conserving natural resources, state, local, and federal governments, along with private landowners, are working to ensure that the “cut out and get out” policies of the early twentieth century are no longer common practice and that the Piney Woods maintains its character for successive generations. The 1972 election was pivotal; the Piney Woods helped elect Trent Lott congressman from the 5th congressional district and Thad Cochran from the 4th congressional district.