ROLLA, Mo. – Rich, lush forests have contributed to Missouri’s diverse, healthy, and habitable landscape for centuries. Its wide variety of trees and wildlife species attracted early explorers to the state. But by 1930, the very resource on which early settlers depended for their livelihoods had nearly disappeared due to overuse.
Thanks to better education and conservation practices, Missouri now boasts more than 15-million acres of forest land, and annual forest growth rates far exceed timber harvested, ensuring ample forests for future generations. In fact, Missouri’s forest management over the past century has provided a model for foresters and land managers across the continent.
This fall, experts from across the U.S. and Canada convened in Rolla to share knowledge and experience in maintaining healthy forests and renewable natural resources.
Under the direction of MDC’s Forestry Division, the 66th annual North Central Forest Pest Workshop attracted plant pathologists, forest entomologists, foresters, researchers, and students to the Show-Me state. Four days of talks and tours showcased Missouri’s model forest management practices.
“We really enjoyed hosting the workshop this year,” said MDC Forest Entomologist Robbie Doerhoff. “It gave us a chance to learn new information about invasive species, including emerald ash borer, Japanese beetle, and laurel wilt on sassafras. We were also excited to show attendees our beautiful Ozark forests and how we are working to keep them healthy.”
Conference attendees visited Woodson K. Woods Conservation Area near St. James to examine efforts to manage rapid white oak mortality. Experts also toured McGinnis Wood Products, a stave mill and worldwide exporter of oak barrels in Cuba, Mo., and explored MDC’s George O. White State Forest Nursery near Licking.
The state forest nursery began in the 1930s, soon after the designation of Missouri’s national forests. In response to the depletion of forest resources through overharvest, thousands of forest acres needed restoration, and it would take millions of seedlings to do it.
“Eighty years and approximately 530-million seedlings later, the nursery is still working hard to provide high quality health seedlings to landowners,” said MDC Forestry Nursery Supervisor Mike Fiaoni.
The original nursery property consisted of 40 acres, but today covers more than 750 acres. The property now propagates more than 65 different species of trees and shrubs, each year processing more than 10,000 orders, and shipping about 3-million seedlings.
Healthy forests protect hillsides from erosion, filter the air, soften the extremes of weather, beautify urban areas, and keep unwanted runoff out of our streams. The timber industry and wood products provide thousands of jobs and contribute about $9-billion to Missouri’s economy each year.
At the same time, forests represent a diverse resource of plants, animals, birds, and other lifeforms. Missouri’s bounty of wildlife species such as whitetail deer, wild turkeys, and wood ducks rely on healthy forests for survival.
“It’s great to get together with a broad group of experts,” said Doerhoff. “We are able to learn from the experiences of other states and hopefully make our forests healthier and more resilient through that knowledge.”
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. Today, foresters and other conservation officials are working together to combat invasive pests and diseases, to improve habitat, and ensure survival of wildlife species and the forests that support them.
Learn more about Missouri’s forest health, including pests and diseases you may encounter on your own property at mdc.mo.gov/trees-plants/diseases-pests. Find more information about the many ways trees benefit our communities and how to care for them at treeswork.org/.