Caring for a Forest

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Published on: Sep. 2, 2000

Last revision: Nov. 5, 2010

Private landowners hold the key to Missouri's forests of the future. Good management allows us to enjoy beautiful forests and reap their bounty.

Recreation, lumber production, hunting, fishing and birdwatching are a few of the reasons citizens in Missouri own and care for forested land. And while their needs and expectations from the land may differ widely, private landowners all share one thing in common: responsibility for the future of Missouri’s forests.

Private ownership accounts for 93 percent of the total land in our state and 85 percent of Missouri’s forested land. That means much of the conservation of the state’s natural resources is dependent upon private landowners.

The Conservation Department realizes the importance of working with private landowners to help conserve Missouri’s natural resources. By offering a variety of different programs, the Conservation Department is able to help meet the diverse needs of landowners while still working in harmony with nature. Many of these forest management services are offered free of charge.

The Forest Stewardship program, for example, is a cooperative effort between the Conservation Department and the U.S. Forest Service. Conservation Department foresters can develop Forest Stewardship plans for landowners, advising them on forest management steps to take. These plans emphasize managing all natural resources on the property while still heeding the owner’s needs and goals.

A stewardship plan might include timber stand improvement work, which is thinning a forest to remove undesirable and defective trees and to properly space the remaining trees. Mature timber might be carefully harvested and sold. We also can design stewardship plans to attract desirable animals or control problem wildlife.

Unfortunately, most landowners are not aware of these services or choose not to take advantage of them. By failing to consult a professional forester, many landowners do not receive the maximum benefits from their land. Trees are often harvested prematurely, so they do not have the chance to reach their full potential value.

Wayne Wittmeyer, private lands specialist for the Conservation Department, says, "Our biggest problem in the state right now is that 80 to 90 percent of the state’s tree harvests are done without the advice of a professional."

Besides monetary values from wood production, forested land has many other benefits. Wildlife habitat and food come from the forest, and clean water and air are other important products. These values may not be realized if the timber is cut before it has fully matured. By managing their lands responsibly and conscientiously,

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