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Missouri Forest Facts

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  • The Society of American Foresters was founded when a group of seven foresters got together at the organization's first meeting in November 1900. That meeting was held in the old Agriculture Department building in Washington, DC., and saw the founding of an organization dedicated to professional forest conservation throughout the United States. The Missouri Society of American Foresters was founded in 1929.
  • The forests we enjoy today are very different from the forests of 100 years ago in Missouri. Our state was in the midst of a logging boom in 1900. The pine forests of the Ozarks attracted lumber men from the eastern United States, and from about 1880 until 1920 Missouri was one of the leading lumber-producing states in the nation. Huge sawmills produced building lumber, shingles, molding and railroad ties for a growing nation.
  • At the turn of the last century, Missouri was a leading timber-producing state. The peak of Missouri's timber production was in 1909. By 1910, nearly all of the pine had been cut. And by 1920 the boom was over: there were no more trees left to cut in the Ozarks. That's when work began in earnest to help regenerate Missouri's forests.
  • In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corps. The CCC was formed to provide much-needed employment to young men and to aid in the conservation of the United States' natural resources. The program enrolled some 520,000 men in the United States at its peak, and approximately half of those were assigned to forestry projects. Nationwide, the CCC developed more than 800 state parks, planted 3 billion trees, built 3,100 lookout towers and fought thousands of acres of wildfires.
  • Missouri voters approved a state constitutional amendment creating the Conservation Commission in 1936. This new agency included a Forestry Division; an innovative idea at the time.
  • All across Missouri and the United States, forests were generally logged and abandoned in the early part of this century. This practice continued until the 1920s, when forest conservation became widely practiced. Now, an average of 1.9 billion tree seedlings are planted in the U.S., translating into six seedlings for every tree cut. Five million trees were planted in Missouri alone at the George O. White State Forest Nursery in Licking. This includes 70 different species of trees, shrubs and prairie forbs. Each summer and fall the nursery collects or buys tens of thousands of pounds of seeds to grow all these species. Last year, for example, about 5,000 bushels of walnuts, 15,000 pounds of white oak acorns, 8,000 pounds of hazelnuts and 600 pounds of plum seed were needed just to establish seedlings for these four species.
  • Today, the state of Missouri boasts more than 14 million acres of forest land. It ranks seventh out of the 20 northeastern states in the amount of forested acreage. Only New York, Michigan, Maine, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Wisconsin have more forest land. Of those 14 million acres, private landowners own 85 percent. Only 15 percent is government-owned: 12 percent is owned by the federal government, mostly in the Mark Twain National Forest, and 3 percent is owned by the state of Missouri and local governments.
  • Annual growth of forests far exceeds the amount harvested, ensuring ample forests for future generations. Harvesting and processing trees into wood products gives thousands of people jobs and contributes about $3 billion each year to Missouri's economy. Wood industries provide countless people with the materials necessary to build homes, furniture and other items necessary to our daily lives. Approximately one-third of Missouri is covered by forest land, featuring some of the finest oak, walnut, pine and red cedar trees anywhere.
  • Forests are Missouri's greatest renewable resource. If managed wisely, a healthy forest will keep producing quality trees for years to come, creating tremendous economic, environmental and social benefits.
  • Most of Missouri's recreation and tourism industry is centered in forested regions of our state.
  • Healthy forests protect hillsides from erosion, filter the air, soften the extremes of weather and beautify urban areas. They also keep unwanted runoff out of our streams. At the same time, forests represent a diverse resource of plants, animals, birds and other life forms.
  • Wildlife species such as whitetail deer, wild turkeys and wood ducks were almost extinct at the turn of the century. Wildlife conservation and habitat enhancement has resulted in flourishing populations of these and other species we now take almost for granted. Today, foresters are working with other conservation professionals to improve habitats and ensure survival of other wildlife species.
  • Missouri forests evolved with native insects and diseases, and have developed defenses against them. Pests from other countries are a much more serious threat to our forests. The gypsy moth is expected to reach the state early in the 21st century. Oaks are one of the moth's favorite foods, and the gypsy moth's effect on our oak forests could be devastating. As global commerce continues to grow, we must guard against other harmful pests being introduced.
  • Livestock grazing in woodland areas is a serious detriment to tree regeneration and wildlife habitat. Usually only undesirable tree species remain because they are unpalatable to the livestock grazing on them. Sharp hooves damage tree root systems and remove the protective leaf litter on the ground, resulting in accelerated soil erosion.
  • Careful cutting of trees is a large part of effective forest management and creates a greater diversity of plant and animal life in our forests. Missouri is home to at least 730 species of wildlife, many of which live in our forests and are sustained through the careful management of tree growth in those forests.
  • Fire prevention and control has been a top priority for foresters in Missouri since the founding of the Society of American Foresters in 1900. At least three-fourths of the land outside state parks burned over twice each year as recently as the 1920s and 1930s. Today, less than one-tenth of 1 percent of Missouri forest land is burned.
  • Although forest fires are still a major threat to Missouri's forests, fire management today is the best it's ever been. Lookout towers, once common sights throughout the heavily forested areas of the Ozarks, are disappearing because they are no longer needed. Fires today are much fewer and farther between, and the acreage lost is a tiny fraction of the total protected area. Less than one-tenth of one percent of Missouri's forests burn each year, and 99 percent of those fires are preventable. Most are accidental and are caused by carelessness like burning trash, leaves or other debris on a windy day, carelessly tossed cigarettes, children playing with matches, or improperly extinguished campfires.
  • While most forest fires in Missouri are accidents and are preventable, a full 40 percent of forest fires that burn every year are deliberately set. Arson accounts for at least one out of every three forest fires every year. To report arsonists, the Conservation Department has set up a toll-free hotline, Operation Forest Arson at 1-800-392-1111.
  • Responsible forest management is the key to a healthy forest. As part of an effective management program, sometimes cuts are needed to help regenerate parts of the forest. Also, consideration for wildlife and aesthetic value are key when deciding when and what cuts need to be made.
  • Some wood products are now being labeled "green". This means that those wood products come from a forest that is sustainably managed. In other words, those products come from a forest that is aggressively promoting new growth and forest regeneration, while at the same time offering mature trees to be used for quality wood products.
  • There are more than 1,000 Certified Tree Farmers in Missouri who own almost a half-million acres of forest. Six of them recently have been named recipients of the Centennial Stewardship Farm Award for contributing to Missouri's natural resources for 100 years or more.
  • In Missouri, experts from the Conservation Department are available to help landowners make the right decisions about stewardship of their property. These professionals include foresters, wildlife and fisheries biologists, soil scientists and Extension specialists, and they are all available to help free of charge.
  • Healthy forests remove about 1.8 pounds of carbon dioxide and release 1.3 pounds of oxygen into the air for each pound of wood produced. One acre of trees can remove 13 tons of dust and gases from the air every year. This means trees actually help clean the air we breathe, helping us live healthier lives.
  • Water in tree-lined streams is, on average, 10 degrees cooler than non-forested streams. A healthy stream depends on a healthy forest growing on its banks, and tree-lined river banks significantly lessen the impact of flooding.
  • A few well placed trees around a house can reduce winter heating bills anywhere from 10 to 50 percent. Likewise, strategically placed shade trees can reduce air conditioning and cooling costs in summer time by 10 to 50 percent. Tree-shaded streets, homes and parking lots are noticeably cooler in summer than their non-shaded counterparts.
  • The average life of a tree in a heavily-used city park is 25 to 30 years. By contrast, the average life span of a tree in a remote rural forest is 100 to 150 years.
  • Each year the average American uses the equivalent of one large tree about 100 feet tall and 18 inches in diameter for his or her wood and paper needs. All parts of the tree are used to make wood and paper products.
  • One cord of air-dried oak firewood weighs more than 4,000 pounds. That one cord of wood can be used to produce 250 copies of the typical Sunday New York Times, or 2,700 copies of the average 36-page daily paper.
  • An average 2,000 square-foot, single-family home can contain up to 13,000 board feet of lumber and up to 9,500 square feet of panel products. This includes products ranging from structural beams and roof supports to the sheathing, trim and paneling. Home building and remodeling are the largest single use of lumber and wood products, accounting for about two-thirds of domestic consumption.

Key Messages: 

Conservation pays by enriching our economy and quality of life.

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