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Planting for Conservation

“Acts of creation are ordinarily reserved for gods and poets. To plant a pine, one need only own a shovel.” —Aldo Leopold

Tree planting season is here! Most foresters are like me and can hardly contain their excitement when they get their first peek at a tree seedling catalogue and start thinking about the opportunity to celebrate the tree planting season. That’s right, celebrate! After all, Arbor Day is known as the “Tree Planter’s Holiday.”

My first experience with tree planting began in 1974 when my dad bought a small parcel of land in Howell County. Shortly after building a house and moving in, he came home one spring day with about 100 shortleaf pine seedlings in a bundle of brown paper stamped“George O. White State Forest Nursery.” It seems these trees had been provided to the local vocational agriculture teacher for conservation projects in the area. My dad, also a school teacher, was more than willing to capitalize on the opportunity to green-up his recently acquired property.

So my sisters and I headed to an old field with Dad taking along the trees, shovels, pry bars and buckets to plant those trees in our rocky Ozark soil. After a long afternoon, a few sore muscles and a tiny bit of teenage whining, we finished the task and felt proud to see those little green sprigs of pine needles sticking up above the grass. I still feel proud every time I go to the family farm and walk past those towering pine trees now reaching heights of nearly 50 feet and whispering gently in the wind as if to say thank you for planting them.

Did you know that 33 years later, the Department’s George O. White State Forest Nursery still provides trees to Missouri landowners and residents for conservation projects? The nursery has been in operation for 60 years and now produces roughly 5 million tree and shrub seedlings annually. These trees provide Missourians with a source of diverse plants for many conservation practices, such as forest restoration, wildlife food and cover establishment, windbreaks, stream bank stabilization and soil protection.

This year the nursery is offering roughly 60 different species of trees and shrubs intended to allow landowners broad opportunities to enhance wildlife habitat and beautify their property with sometimes hard-to-find Missouri native species. In addition, residents can purchase special seedling bundles designed for specific purposes, like the Wildlife Cover Bundle, Conservation Bundle, Nut Tree Bundle or the Quail Cover Bundle. The nursery will be accepting orders until the end of April with a minimum order of one bundle containing 25 trees or shrubs.

Besides providing trees for public use, the state forest nursery is an integral part of the Department’s management of Conservation Areas and implementation of priority programs. Each year the nursery staff works closely with resource managers to grow trees and other plants for specific habitat projects and programs, like the Department’s current quail and grassland bird initiative or bottomland hardwood restoration emphasis areas. Working together, the Department’s staff creates a win-win situation for wildlife by enhancing their habitat while “planting” for the future of conservation.

Now is the time to start planning your own tree planting project. Remember, trees not only enhance habitat for many species of wildlife, they also clean the air through carbon sequestration, provide clean water by controlling erosion, reduce energy bills by breaking the wind and shading our homes, provide diverse wood products to support our quality of life, beautify our homes and increase their market value, and make the world a much more tranquil place to live. So why not plant a tree and change the world!

Lisa Allen, forestry division chief

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