Back from the Ashes

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Published on: Sep. 2, 2000

Last revision: Nov. 5, 2010

Dunn district forester under the supervision of State Forester Frederick Dunlap. The agency assigned Dunn to Ellington, where his primary job was fire prevention. He drove around his district in a Model T, hauling a trailer with a motion picture projector and a generator - the origin of the "Showboat" later used by the Forestry Division of the Conservation Commission. He had one film, Trees of Righteousness, apparently made by the U.S. Forest Service in Arkansas. He wore out five copies of the film showing it to every school district in Reynolds and adjoining counties.

Foresters built Missouri’s first lookout tower in 1926 in Deer Run State Park (later called Deer Run State Forest) with funds from the Commissioner of Fish and Game. They constructed a second tower at Indian Trail the next year. At this time no organized fire protection existed outside of the state parks. Dunn reported that at least three-fourths of the land outside state parks burned twice each year.

In 1931 the Legislature failed to appropriate any funds for forestry. The forestry division abolished the Fish and Game Department, and the state forester, Frederick Dunlap, resigned in despair. An official report signed by him concluded that it was impossible to establish forest fire control in the Ozarks.

While there was no forestry program in Missouri for several years, forest conservation efforts continued to move forward. In 1929, the Missouri National Forest Association successfully lobbied the Legislature to permit the federal government to purchase land in Missouri for a national forest. Eight purchase units were set up in 1934 and 1935, and the forest became a reality. The more than one million acres of cutover forest land acquired is now known as Mark Twain National Forest.

In the midst of the Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). This program gave much-needed employment and training to young men. More than a half-million men were enrolled at its peak, and about half were assigned to forestry projects. Nationwide, the CCC developed more than 800 state parks, planted three billion trees, built 3,100 lookout towers and fought thousands of acres of wildfires. Their work came at a time when our natural resources were desperately in need of helping hands.

Conservation efforts were now under way at the state level. Voters approved the constitutional amendment creating the Conservation Commission in 1936. This new agency included forest management - an innovative idea

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