Caring for a Forest

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Published on: Sep. 2, 2000

Last revision: Nov. 5, 2010

property, they can still be an important conservation resource in the state. Carter Miller lives in Concord, California, but he owns 240 acres in Linn County.

This land has been in his family since 1873 and was used in the past mainly for growing corn, soybeans, wheat and oats. Miller continued to farm the land until about 15 years ago. "I realized the land wasn’t being used as effectively as it could be," he says. He began having timber stand improvement work done on the land, removing undesirable trees and doing necessary pruning on the remaining ones. He also planted tree seedlings.

Today the land has about 50 acres of timber, with oak, hickory, walnut, sycamore and cottonwood the most prevalent trees. There also are about 80 acres of pasture, 38 acres of hay and 72 acres in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The CRP is a nationwide effort to prevent soil erosion by keeping land in grass cover.

In 1993, a professional forester evaluated Miller’s land and developed a management plan for the next few years. Although Miller is unable to do work on the land himself, he has enlisted the help of landowner Morton "Jack" Anderson, a family friend who lives nearby. It is not uncommon for private landowners, especially absentee landowners, to have a caretaker or friend watch over their property. They are as vital to the success of resource management as the landowner.

Phil Sneed, management forester, acknowledges Miller’s work. "Prior to these activities, Miller’s forest consisted of areas with dense, highly competitive groupings of trees, resulting in slow growth and little regeneration. Also it had undesirable trees. Timber stand improvements and crop tree release has helped to increase growth and vigor by reducing competition to preferred trees. Thinnings have helped remove or decrease undesirable tree species, such as locust and elm, and moved the forest to a more productive natural community structure."

Improving the quality of the trees has not been the only benefit to the forest’s health. Sneed explains, "The increase in seed and growth on the forest floor has a benefit to wildlife in the form of increased forage."

Missouri landowners like Steve Whitaker, Tom Agerton and Carter Miller are indeed praiseworthy because they have worked with the Conservation Department to preserve and improve their forested land. The Forest Stewardship program and the Stewardship Incentives Program have helped them manage the land effectively and wisely.

These landowners and others like them are helping to conserve the precious natural resources in our state. By taking the initiative and playing an active role in land management, conservation-minded landowners can ensure that they will leave the land in better condition than it was when they received it

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