Turkey hunting clinic open to youths 9 through 15
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Up to 40 youths can register for the free event April 3.
BLAIRSTOWN, Mo.– Hunters age 9 through 15 who want to learn about turkey hunting can register for a youth turkey hunting clinic April 3.
The clinic is co-sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation and Everhart’s Wilderness Lodge. It will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the lodge, which is northwest of Clinton.
The event gives youths a chance to learn from experienced turkey hunters. Participants learn about turkey hunting rules and regulations, firearms safety, shotgun patterning, choke and shot selection, calling, scouting, decoy use and equipment. The free clinic includes ammunition and lunch.
Registration is limited to 40 youths. Each youth must be accompanied by an adult sponsor. Each adult may sponsor up to two youths. Youths are encouraged to bring their shotguns. For more information or to register, call Johnny and Linda Everhart, 660-885-5049.
More than 600 youths compete in second Missouri archery tournament
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Regional qualifying events might be needed in future years.
LINN, Mo.–Who would have guessed that 60,000-year-old technology could pry kids’ hands off video game controllers and improve their grades? Perhaps no one, but Kevin Lohraff at least had a clue.
Lohraff is the Missouri Department of Conservation’s education outreach coordinator. When he took on the job of coordinating the Missouri National Archery in the Schools Program (MoNASP), he heard stories of how the program changed children’s lives and grew so fast it took on a life of its own.
Last year – two years after the first Missouri school launched the in-school archery program – Lohraff watched in amazement as registration for the first MoNASP tournament turned into a groundswell that flooded the activity center at Linn State Technical College. Two-hundred seventy-four youths in grades four through 12 took part in that event. This year’s tournament on Feb. 13 drew 639 shooters from 31 schools and nearly forced MoNASP officials to call finalists back for a second day to finish.
Lohraff estimates that 16,000 kids participated in MoNASP programs at 102 schools in 2009. That is up from approximately 8,000 last year. He says the program’s phenomenal growth is extremely gratifying, but keeping up with that growth is a challenge.
“We are going to have to completely rethink to see how we run next year’s tournament,” he said.
While the pace of growth has taken almost everyone by surprise, Lohraff says the reasons for MoNASP’s popularity are easy to understand. He refers to it as “The Wow Effect.”
The first “wow” moment usually involves adults, who witness a transformation in youngsters they know well.
“Parents and teachers often tell me that the kids they know at school and at home act differently when they shoot archery,” said Lohraff. “They talk about a new energy—a type of awakening—when their kid picks up the bow. They are surprised by the amount of concentration and focus. They sometimes say ‘a light went on with my daughter’ or ‘I have never seen my son so interested in anything like this before.’ I sometimes reply with a ‘Wow!’ and I mean it.”
Lohraff says he gets a charge out of watching people’s faces when they walk in the door at the state tournament. Most pause. Some actually stop and just stare. The first word out of their mouth is usually, “Wow!”
“It’s a pretty impressive sight to see 70 kids on the shooting line at one time—quiet, determined, and absolutely focused,” says Lohraff. “You could probably hear a pin drop if it weren’t for the dull roar of 70 arrows thumping into targets stretched out across three full-size gyms.”
Among the impressed spectators at this year’s event were Conservation Commissioners Chip McGeehan and Don Johnson, Conservation Department Director Bob Ziehmer and Deputy Director Tim Ripperger. Leaders of other organizations that support the tournament also were on hand. These included Conservation Federation of Missouri Executive Director Dave Murphy, United Bowhunters of Missouri President Tom Dickerson and Jeff Friedmann, past-President of Missouri Bowhunter’s Association.
Lohraff said the list of people who have contributed to MoNASP’s success so far is long. “I’m glad that hundreds of teachers, school administrators, MDC staff and partners, parents and volunteers have invested in this program. And I’m especially glad that some of these kids that have picked up a bow today will continue to pick up bows the rest of their lives.”
School administrators, teachers or parents who would like to see MoNASP in their schools can learn about the program’s benefits and help that is available to start programs by contacting Lohraff at Kevin.Lohraff@mdc.mo.gov or calling 573-751-4115.
“Put a bow in a kid’s hands and help them shoot,” said Lohraff. “You might see a little light go on and you might see a kid change before your eyes. You might just say, ‘Wow.’”
Younger shooters, smaller schools take top archery honors
Elementary and middle-school archers beat older contestants, and Crane, Mo., won first place in two of three team divisions.
LINN, Mo.–Archers in the elementary and middle school divisions outshot high-school-aged competitors to take top honors in the second Missouri National Archery in the Schools Program (MoNASP) tournament Feb. 13.
MoNASP gives students in participating schools the opportunity to shoot bows and arrows under close supervision during physical education classes. One of the program’s biggest selling points is that any student can succeed, regardless of size or athletic ability.
That fact was confirmed at this year’s state tournament, where eighth-grader Mason Price, from the Maries County R-II Middle School took top honors among male shooters with a score of 287 out of 300 possible points. First place for female shooters went to sixth-grader Jordan Lewis of George Guffey Elementary School in Fenton. She scored 274 points. These two top shooters received a chrome-finish Genesis bow, donated by Brennan Industries.
Archery also is a sport where large and small school districts can compete on an equal footing. Teams from Crane, Mo., population 1,375, took first place in the middle school and high school divisions. Arnold, Mo., also proved it is a force to reckon with, taking second place in the elementary team division and third among middle schools.
School districts from large to small also were represented in overall tournament standings.
- Elementary Division
- Female - Jordan Lewis (score of 274) George Guffey Elem., Fenton
- Male - Colton Fry (272) Dent-Phelps R-III, Salem
- Middle School Division
- Female - Marissa Quick (265) Dent-Phelps R-III, Salem
- Male - Mason Price (287) Maries Co. R-II, Bland
- High School Division
- Female - Paige Grisham (266) Crane High School, Crane
- Male - Dylan Paris (278) Warsaw High School, Warsaw
- Elementary Division
- George Guffey Elementary, Fenton
- Meramec Heights, Arnold
- Longview Farm Elementary, Lee’s Summit
- Middle School Division
- Crane Middle School, Crane
- Willard Middle School, Willard
- Ridgewood Middle School, Arnold
- High School Division
- Crane High School, Crane
- Warsaw High School, Warsaw
- Hurley High School, Hurley
The tournament at Linn State Technical College drew 639 shooters, more than twice the number who participated in last year’s event.
Niangua River produces Missouri's first record fish of 2010
Friday, February 19, 2010
The 4-pound, 5-ounce white sucker is the first ever recorded for alternative methods.
BUFFALO, Mo.–A gigging trip on the Niangua River in Dallas County produced Missouri’s first state-record white sucker in the alternative methods category.
Fifteen-year-old Joshua Lee Vance of Bolivar gigged the 4-pound, 5-ounce fish around 8:30 p.m. Jan. 19, setting Missouri’s first state fishing record of the year. The fish was 21.25 inches long
The Missouri Department of Conservation maintains fishing records in two categories – pole and line and alternative methods. The Pole and Line category is for fish hooked in the mouth with a hand-held line. Alternative Methods records include fish taken by snagging, trotlines, limb lines, bank lines, spearing, gigging or archery.
The white sucker pole-and-line record is 4 pounds, 8 ounces.
A surprising number of state fishing records have never been filled. Open records include six for pole and line and 23 for alternative methods. Open pole-and-line records include white catfish, spotted sucker and alligator gar. Open alternative-methods records include white and yellow bass, muskellunge, shovelnose sturgeon and shorthead redhorse.
Anglers should note that some alternative methods are not legal for some fish species. For example, trout may not be taken by gigging.
A list of state fishing records and information about applying for records are available at www.mdc.mo.gov/69.
The Conservation Department also has a Master Angler Program to recognize notable catches that fall short of records. For qualifying lengths and weights and an entry form, visit www.mdc.mo.gov/71.
Opening-day anglers will find improvements at trout parks
Thursday, February 18, 2010
The Conservation Department has upgraded fish habitat and hatchery facilities at Missouri’s four trout parks.
For more than 70 years, Missourians have been celebrating the arrival – or at least the anticipation – of spring by turning out in large numbers at trout parks on March 1. Although the parks remain open year-round, anglers can catch and keep fish only from March 1 through Oct. 31. They must release fish they catch from the second Friday in November through the second Monday in February.
The opportunity to shake off winter torpor and take home fresh trout attracts more than 10,000 anglers to the parks some years, along with more than a few people who come simply to witness the spectacle.
The Missouri Department of Conservation operates trout hatcheries at all four trout parks. It stocks three trout for every angler expected on opening day. Based on records of past opening days, the Conservation Department expects 8,000 anglers will attend this year’s trout opener and so will stock 24,000 trout at the four parks.
Weather plays an important role in determining crowd size on opening day. The trout park attendance record occurred in 1992, when 14,947 anglers descended on the parks for a Sunday opener with beautiful weather. Although this year’s opening-day crowd is unlikely to approach that high-water mark, pleasant conditions could boost the total considerably.
This is the 100th consecutive year of trout production at Roaring River State Park near Cassville. Roland Bruner built the first hatchery there in 1910. The state took over the property in 1928 and has operated the hatchery ever since.
By the time anglers arrive March 1, work crews will have finished removing gravel from selected areas of the spring branch at Roaring River. Flooding last year washed excessive gravel into the stream, covering bottom structure that benefits trout. The crews also have been removing excess aquatic vegetation to improve fishing conditions.
Similar habitat work has taken place during the off-season at the other three trout parks. Visitors also may find ongoing renovation work at the Conservation Department’s trout hatcheries. These include a new production building and major raceway renovations at Bennett Spring Hatchery and a new feed storage building and office renovation at Roaring River.
Anglers who have not visited Montauk State Park since the 2009 trout opener will find a new fish-cleaning station to make their post-fishing chores more convenient and keep the park cleaner.
Three of Missouri’s trout parks – Bennett Spring near Lebanon, Montauk near Salem, and Roaring River – are state parks, owned by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. The fourth – Maramec Spring Park, near St. James – is owned by the James Foundation. The Conservation Department operates trout hatcheries at all four.
For more information about trout park fishing, call:
· Bennett Spring - 417-532-4418.
· Maramec - 573-265-7801.
· Montauk - 573-548-2585.
· Roaring River - 417-847-2430.
Anglers need a daily trout tag to fish in Missouri’s trout parks. Missouri residents 16 through 64 need a fishing permit in addition to the daily tag. Nonresidents 16 and older need a fishing permit.
Trout parks are only one option for Show-Me State anglers. For more about the state’s extensive system of trout streams and winter trout fishing, visit www.mdc.mo.gov/7248.
MDC to test Quick Draw system at three wetland areas
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
The online system will let more people enjoy guaranteed waterfowl hunting while maintaining the “poor line.”
JEFFERSON CITY–Missouri hunters will take part in a pilot program this fall to make waterfowl hunting at state-owned wetland areas less of a gamble.
The Missouri Department of Conservation will test an online drawing system called Quick Draw. The system is intended to change the way daily drawings are conducted to assign waterfowl hunting opportunities at state wetland areas. The new system still will include a pre-draw portion (Quick Draw) and a daily drawing for remaining open slots.
The agency will test Quick Draw at Eagle Bluffs, Grand Pass and Otter Slough conservation areas to determine whether the online system enhances convenience and hunter participation. Depending on how well it works, the system might be modified and expanded to other state-managed wetland areas in future years.
During this year’s trial run, Missouri residents will enter online drawings for hunting slots twice a week instead of having to go to the three conservation areas for the daily draw. Hunters entering the drawing through Quick Draw can apply to hunt at one area per day. The system will not limit the number of days for which hunters can apply, or the number of days they can hunt if they are drawn.
A drawing on Monday of each week will assign hunting slots for the following Friday through Monday. A drawing each Thursday will assign slots for the following Tuesday through Thursday. The Quick Draw system will accept applications a few days prior to each drawing.
The online drawings will assign 80 percent of hunting slots each day. The remaining 20 percent of slots will be assigned in a drawing at each wetland area the morning of the hunt. This arrangement – commonly called the “poor line” drawing – is part of the current drawing system.
Wildlife Division Chief DeeCee Darrow said the trial is part of a larger effort to re-examine how the Conservation Department does business and to use every technological means at its disposal to improve services.
“Our current daily drawing system for assigning waterfowl hunting opportunities has been around for a long time,” said Darrow. “However, it does have some drawbacks. We had no way to address those shortcomings in the days before the Internet. We think Quick Draw will make hunting at our wetland areas more practical for more hunters.”
The current drawing system assigns hunting opportunities in two ways. Each September, Missouri residents apply for hunting reservations at wetland areas. Those reservations can be from late October into January. The reservation system assigns half the hunting slots available at each wetland area each day. The other half are assigned in drawings – the so-called “poor line” – held early each morning at each wetland area. The three areas where Quick Draw is being tested will not be included in the reservation system this year.
Daily “poor line” drawings allow Missouri residents who do not have reservations and nonresidents to drive to the wetland areas of their choice for a chance at drawing one of the unreserved hunting slots. This feature is retained under Quick Draw.
Having a reservation under the current system is not always good for reservation holders. Reservation dates are locked in weeks or months in advance, and and do not always coincide with those days when large numbers of ducks and geese are present. Under the present system, the only way to concentrate your hunting efforts on the best days of the year is to stand in the “poor line.” The new system gives hunters more flexibility by letting them try for guaranteed hunting slots on the hottest hunting days of the year.
Driving to wetland areas to stand in the “poor line” is a costly gamble for those who live far from their favorite hunting areas or who must take a day of vacation for a hunt. It also creates a quandary for parents who want to hunt with their children but hesitate to take them out of school without any assurance they will get to hunt.
Quick Draw’s twice-weekly drawings will increase the number of hunters who have guaranteed slots when they arrive at wetland areas. It also will enable hunters to focus their efforts on the best hunting days.
Under Quick Draw, the computer drawing will determine the order in which successful applicants get to select hunting spots. It also will determine where successful hunters in the ‘poor line” fit in the selection of hunting spots. On any given day, the No. 1 spot can be in either the Quick Draw or “poor-line” portion of the draw.
Darrow said the new system will reduce the number of hunters turned away from wetland areas onsite each morning. Furthermore, she expects it to speed up the process of getting hunters to their hunting spots.
“We think hunters will find a lot to like about this system,” said Darrow. “We know from past surveys that lack of time is one factor that prevents people from enjoying outdoor activities. This will help Missourians make better use of their time.”
Darrow noted that high fuel prices make fruitless trips to distant hunting areas expensive. Quick Draw will save waterfowl hunters money.
“No system can please everyone,” said Darrow, “but we hope this new arrangement will make it easier and more affordable for people to take advantage of waterfowl hunting at state wetlands. If it lets more people enjoy hunting, it will be a success.”
Darrow said the Conservation Department is interested in finding out what hunters think of Quick Draw, both before and after this year’s trial. She said the new system is still in development, with time for fine-tuning to make the test run as convenient as possible for hunters and as useful as possible in post-test evaluation.
Hunters interested in providing suggestions about Quick Draw can contact the nearest Conservation Department office or send written comments to Wildlife Division, Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180.
Print version of spring turkey hunting booklet has error
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
Dates for managed hunts are correct in the online version.
JEFFERSON CITY–The starting date for one of Missouri’s managed spring turkey hunts is incorrect in the 2010 Spring Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information booklet, but the online version has been corrected.
The popular booklet, which is distributed through hunting permit vendors, lists the dates of a managed hunt at Current River State Park as April 20 through May 2. The correct dates are April 29 through May 2.
The print version of the publication had gone to press before the error was detected. However, the Missouri Department of Conservation corrected the dates at mdc.mo.gov/hunt/turkey/sprturk/managed.htm.
Second Annual MoNASP State Tournament THIS SATURDAY, Feb. 13
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
Almost 700 student archers from throughout MO expected.
WHO: Missouri Department of Conservation, Linn State Technical College, MoNASP schools
WHAT: Missouri National Archery in the Schools Program (MoNASP) State Tournament
WHEN: Saturday, February 13, 2010, 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. with awards to follow
WHERE: Activity Center at Linn State Technical College, Linn MO
WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT: The National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) is an international-style target archery program for students in grades 4-12. It is taught during the regular school hours, often by the physical education teacher. NASP is now taught in 46 states and five countries. Over 4.6 million students have participated in the program since its beginning in 2002. NASP allows students to experience success in school and has the ability to improve self-esteem, behavior, grades and attendance.
The Missouri Department of Conservation began coordinating NASP in Missouri in 2007. The number of schools participating in MoNASP has doubled each year, growing from 20 to 49 in 2008 and from 49 to 100 in 2009. Currently 101 Missouri schools and more than 16,000 students participate in the program. The first MoNASP State tournament took place last year at Linn State Technical College with 17 schools and 274 students participating. This year’s tournament again will be held at the Activity Center at Linn State Technical College in Linn, MO on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2010. Almost 700 student archers are expected to participate.
CONTACT PERSON: Interviews and site visits should be coordinated through Kevin Lohraff, MDC Outdoor Skills Education Coordinator and Missouri NASP Coordinator, 573-522-4115, ext.3294
BACKGROUND INFO: Get more info on MoNASP, including participating schools, at mdc.mo.gov/teacher/masp/
Partnerships are key to success for the Conservation Department's new deputy director
Friday, February 05, 2010
Tom Draper has broad experience and a strong commitment to maintaining public trust.
JEFFERSON CITY–The newest member of the Missouri Conservation’s leadership team has practiced conservation in places as distant as Africa but formed the ambition to work in Missouri while still in college.
At the Conservation Commission meeting Jan. 28, Conservation Department Director Bob Ziehmer announced his choice of Ozark Regional Forestry Supervisor Tom Draper as the agency’s deputy director – resource management. Draper will oversee the Fisheries, Forestry, Private Land Services, Protection, Resource Science and Wildlife divisions. He began his new job Feb. 1.
Draper, 56, is a native of Ottawa, Ill. He says he spent much of his youth hunting, canoeing and fishing around the confluence of the Fox and Illinois rivers “in every season of the year.”
He decided early on that he wanted to work outside. When fieldwork as a forestry major at Southern Illinois University took him to Missouri’s Ozarks, he fell in love with the verdant hills and clear streams.
“After graduating from Southeast Missouri State University, my wife taught her first two years of school in St. Elizabeth,” says Draper, “and we always knew we wanted to live, work and raise our family in Missouri.”
However, his first job was with the Liberian Forest Development Authority as a Peace Corps volunteer. He spent a year helping the West African nation develop sustainable forestry programs for its extensive and largely untouched rainforests.
Upon his return to the United States, Draper worked briefly in Illinois before accepting a position with the South Dakota Division of Forestry. There he helped the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and several Indian tribes manage lands surrounding Lake Oahe, a 231-mile-long reservoir on the Missouri River.
During his 11 years in South Dakota, Draper met Louie Smith, a conservation officer with a passion for conservation that extended far beyond law enforcement.
“He had a real drive to establish wildlife habitat,” recalls Draper. “He saw the loss of bottomland habitat when they dammed up the river. He understood the economic as well as recreational value of wildlife, and he knew how to get along with local folks and Indian tribes to get things done. I learned a lot from him.”
Work ranging from tree planting to coordinating the efforts of crews from nine states fighting western fires taught Draper the importance of teamwork. He says he has never lost sight of the lessons he learned in South Dakota.
“No matter what you are working on, it’s all about relationships,” he says. “You have to build strong relationships with other agencies and landowners to get things done.”
As an example, he cites his experience trying to persuade farmers in his 14-county area of South Dakota to improve wildlife habitat on their land. He believed that having pheasants to hunt could provide much-needed income for farmers in the tough economy of the early 1980s. He learned that the most effective way of selling this proposition was to convince a core group of landowners of the benefits of conservation.
“Once they were sold, they would sell their neighbors, telling them, ‘You need to do this.’ It was one of the most gratifying things I’ve ever done.”
Draper returned to Missouri in 1989, initially working as a forest products marketing specialist for the Conservation Department in Texas County. During the following years, he worked as an assistant district forester and district forester in Piedmont Ozark regional forester in West Plains.
His experience building partnerships has helped him work with Missouri forest landowners and forest products enterprises to manage land for a sustainable combination of wood products, wildlife habitat and recreation.
“It’s all about partnerships,” says Draper, “and partnerships are not easy at times. We all have our own biases and our own perception of where we should go. That can lead to some very vocal discussions about what’s best. But you have to be willing to have those discussions to get the best solutions.”
Draper said working to maintain the health and productivity of Missouri’s wild lands is a rewarding career because his efforts have effects far beyond the Show-Me State’s borders.
“Missouri is world renowned for its biodiversity,” said Draper, “and we have some resources that have worldwide ecological significance. For example, our Ozark forests are critically important to birds that spend different parts of the year as far away as the Arctic and South America. Without our forests, those birds could not survive. That’s the kind of thing that keeps me going.”
Draper said Missourians have a right to be proud of their state’s conservation achievements, and that legacy instills pride and a sense of duty in the state’s professional conservationists.
“People who work for the Conservation Department might not always get it right, but we love the land and value the public’s trust and would never want to violate it.”
In his free time, Draper floats and wade-fishes Ozark streams for smallmouth bass and goggle-eye. He also hunts upland birds and deer, though he says his enjoyment increasingly comes from “being out there,” rather than how much game he brings home.
“I hunt public land, and I find myself wondering how an area where I worked years before is doing. I spend an hour or so sitting in a stand and then I go check on how that land is responding to management activities. I spend a lot of time walking around, checking on things, and if I see a deer, that’s fine.”
Draper and his wife of 32 years, Diane, plan to relocate to Jefferson City. They have three adult children.
The Conservation Department’s other deputy director, Tim Ripperger, supervises the agency’s Administrative Services, Design and Development, Human Resources and Outreach and Education divisions.
Private land the key to forest health
Monday, February 01, 2010
Nearly nine-tenths of Missouri's forest land is privately owned. Fish and wildlife cannot thrive unless this land is managed well.
JEFFERSON CITY– Missouri forests grew three times faster than the rate of harvest over the past 30 years. However, that great news disguises a less encouraging fact. Much of the Show-Me State’s forest is in the same condition a garden would be if you simply threw seeds on the ground in the spring and came back in the fall hoping to harvest crops.
Recent surveys show that Missouri’s privately owned forests are growing at an annual rate of approximately 127.1 board-feet per acre, while it is being harvested at a rate of about 32.5 board feet per acre. Statewide, Missouri’s forest area has increased by nearly 2 million acres in the past 30 years. While that is good news, State Forester Lisa Allen says the state’s private forests still are underachieving. She would like to see private forest land turn into an economic and ecological dynamo. The key to that transformation, says Allen, is changing private forest owners’ approach from benign neglect to active management.
“Our private forests have tremendous unfulfilled potential for productivity,” said Allen. “I am not talking just about economic productivity – board feet of lumber and jobs. Our forests also have an enormous amount of unfulfilled biological potential. They could do much, much better.”
Underproductive forests represent more than a loss for landowners, says Allen. She notes that Missouri’s total forest acreage is approximately 15.4 million acres. Of that amount, the Conservation Department owns or manages approximately 600,000 acres, or 4.1 percent. The USDA Forest Service’s Mark Twain National Forest covers another 1.5 million, or 10.2 percent. Private forests account for 83 percent, with the remaining 3.5 percent held by the Department of Natural Resources and other public agencies.
“The Conservation Department is responsible for fostering the wise use of all the state’s forest, fish and wildlife resources,” says Allen. “We can’t realistically hope to accomplish that on the tiny fraction of the state’s forest land in public ownership. Success or failure in managing Missouri’s forests depends on private landowners.”
According to Allen, the current trend is discouraging. Fortunately, she says, this failure is not a result of deliberate mismanagement or lack of concern. Most Missouri forest landowners simply do not know the history of their forests and what is needed to keep them healthy.
The forests that existed in Missouri prior to European settlement vanished long ago. Tree removal began hundreds of years before the advent of professional forestry, as settlers cut trees to build and heat homes. Land for miles around towns and cities was logged at intervals of several decades as forests were cut and regrew. With each harvest, the forests looked less and less like the originals.
The era of industrial logging in the late 19th and early 20th centuries also predated modern forestry. In fact, the ecological devastation that resulted from deforestation of entire regions, such as the Ozarks, provided much of the impetus for learning how to manage forests as sustainable resources, rather than mining them without regard for benefits as diverse as sustainable lumber supplies, soil and water conservation and recreation.
“In a way, present-day attitudes toward forest management are holdovers from the era before forest management,” said Allen. “Many landowners think that leaving forests alone is the best thing they can do for their land. That might have been true before human activities changed the face of the land. But the forests we inherited require careful, active stewardship to restore and maintain their long-term health.”
Active stewardship is what is missing from Missouri’s private forests, says Allen. Despite decades of efforts to raise popular awareness of good forest management practices, only a fraction of the state’s private forestland is managed under plans prepared by professional foresters.
“As close as we can tell, less than 20 percent of private forest land is managed with professional advice,” says Allen. “The other 80 percent is either improperly managed – with destructive harvest practices, grazing, indiscriminate burning and conversion to other uses – or not managed at all. Lack of professional management is the main obstacle to achieving healthy, sustainable forests in Missouri.”
Part of the problem is a chicken-and-egg quandary. Forest land that has been abused and supports only stunted, overcrowded trees, short on species desirable for wildlife or wood products, could benefit from selective thinning. However, this labor-intensive work costs money, and because trees grow slowly, the investment would take decades to pay off.
In spite of the fact that Missouri’s private forestlands are less healthy than they could be, Allen sees several reasons for optimism. One is the rising cost of energy and resulting focus on renewable biofuels. Higher demand and prices for small-diameter and low-grade trees and for logging residue could provide income that helps landowners pay for better forest management.
Another positive trend that Allen sees is the emerging market for carbon credits. This idea, which took practical hold in 2003 with the establishment of the Chicago Climate Exchange, is aimed at providing incentives to decrease net emissions of carbon dioxide.
One way to reduce net emissions is to buy carbon credits from people and companies who are keeping carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Trees tie up large amounts of carbon as they grow, so one way to obtain carbon credits is to pay landowners to grow trees. Because healthy forests are more efficient at tying up carbon, landowners who manage their forest well can expect the greatest carbon-credit payments.
Allen says a third good sign for healthy forests is increasing demand for green-certified wood products from well-managed land. Environment-conscious consumers want the products they buy to have as little negative effect as possible on the planet. Just as many people are willing to pay more for organic produce, there is growing market for eco-friendly building products.
Evidence of this can be found in the green-architecture movement. This growing field incorporates energy-efficient technologies and wildlife-friendly materials into buildings. Environment-conscious homebuyers are willing to pay more for building materials that come from sustainably managed forests. Again, this promises economic benefits to landowners who manage their forests wisely.
“We have plenty of opportunities to make our forests all they can be,” says Allen. “However, between the Forest Service and the Conservation Department, Missouri has less than 15 percent of its forest acreage in public ownership and management. Whatever we accomplish on those lands will be small potatoes compared to what happens on the private, non-industrial forests that make up 85 percent of Missouri forests. Our challenge is to change people’s attitudes toward forest management and give them the tools and incentives necessary to treat their forests like the valuable assets they are.”
The first step toward good forest management is a visit with a professional forester. After learning the landowner’s main goals for his or her land – for example, wildlife habitat, income from forest products or scenic values – a forester can develop recommendations to achieve those goals. In some cases, assistance is available to implement those recommendations.
To find out more about caring for your forest acreage and how to get forest management help, visit mdc.mo.gov/forest/helpcare.htm, or call the nearest Conservation Department office.