A longtime resident, Leroy, and his son, Gary, have been hunting and camping on land in Carter County for 40 years. The forest has always provided wonderful hunting and other recreational opportunities. “Even after timber harvest the forest was still there and within a few years looked untouched,” Leroy commented. One can only imagine what was going through his mind when he pulled up to his favorite campsite to learn that the property was sold and to see the denuded landscape caused by the ongoing timber harvest.
"It broke my heart to see the devastation," said Leroy. "And thinking that it was ongoing made it even worse." When Leroy called his son, Gary, and explained to him what was happening to their hunting area, the conversation led Gary to buy the property, but not before most of the 639 acres had been harvested. Though Gary now owns the property, their recreation area is gone. So Leroy called Private Lands Conservationist (PLC) Don Foerster with an obvious question on his mind.
The logging operation had removed all trees down to 6-inch stumps during the winter months without using Best Management Practices (BMPs). Foerster’s answer was that there’s no quick, low-cost fix for this situation. Restoration of this type of forest devastation takes money, time and hard work, he said.
Leroy and Gary truly have a love for their piece of the Ozarks. Encouraged by their passion, Foerster developed a plan to begin the restoration. The plan includes erosion control through the use of BMPs on all roads and trails, shortleaf pine plantings, forest stand improvement activities for the natural regeneration of oaks and removal of logging debris piles. While the plan doesn’t address all the restoration needs, it is a starting point. The work will continue for many years.
Next, Foerster turned to finding funding partners to help offset the cost for the landowners. The most pressing problem they have is to stop erosion. Foerster was able to suggest a variety of cost-share options including County Soil and Water District to help control erosion, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to fund shortleaf pine plantings and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program.
Though the project started with Leroy and Gary’s enthusiasm to restore their favorite hunting and camping area, all of the plan development, cost-share funding and hard work will help enrich the quality of life for the next generation. According to Gary, Missourians cannot afford the type of timber harvest that occurred on his new property. “It costs too much in time, money and natural resources,” he said. “This project should have started with a forest management plan.” Private land conservationists work with landowners to develop management plans on an individual basis. Whether timber production or wildlife habitat, a management plan acts as a roadmap to help landowners to achieve their goals. The MDC offers a wealth of services to protect and care for the forest, fish and wildlife resources of the state. The Department has programs specifically designed to help private landowners manage natural resources on their property.
For more information on BMPs, forest management or timber harvests on your property, contact your Missouri Department of Conservation private lands conservationist. To see demonstration areas of forest management techniques available to Ozarks landowners, visit Twin Pines Conservation Education Center and ask for the Forest Management Geocache brochure.