The State of Missouri’s Forests

How can you manage your forests if you don’t know how much you have? For years that has been the challenge facing both the Conservation Department, which owns and manages nearly 600,000 acres of forest land, and Missouri’s private landowners, who own the lion’s share of the state’s forests, more than 11 million acres.

To help Missouri make wise choices, the U.S. Forest Service and the Conservation Department have teamed up to inventory and monitor the state’s forests.

Forest Inventory

Crews of foresters are now measuring and counting trees on private, state and federal land. Because it would be impractical to measure every tree in Missouri, researchers have developed a random sampling scheme of plots scattered across the state. Some crews inventory tree species, size and growth on each of the plots. Other crews measure indicators of forest health, such as crown dieback, insect and disease damage and tree mortality, on selected plots.

Foresters also visit all of Missouri’s sawmills to determine just how much wood is being harvested from our forests and where it ends up.

But forests and trees also grow in Missouri’s towns and cities. Indeed, for most Missourians the trees that line our streets and shade our local parks are the most important and valuable. The Conservation Department’s urban foresters periodically survey street trees in much the same way that more traditional foresters monitor the trees deep in our forests.

To get an accurate picture of what is happening in the state, the crews measure trees on both public and private land and in all forest types. The foresters always contact landowners to explain the purpose of the survey and to obtain permission to enter private lands.

Most Missouri landowners are glad to help us all gain a better understanding of Missouri’s forests. The benefits of forests include recreation, wildlife habitat, clean air and water and forest products. A complete forest inventory gives landowners and managers another tool to help ensure we will always have healthy, productive forests.

Crews completed the first statewide survey of forest land in 1947. Foresters also did surveys in 1959, 1972 and 1989. Inventory data quickly became outdated in the 12 to 17 years between periodic surveys. The 1998 US Farm Bill changed these from periodic to annual surveys. In 1999, the crews working in Missouri measured 20 percent of the 3,500 plots in the state. Each year they will measure a new 20 percent until all plots are completed