Sustaining Missouri’s Forests
be reaped by one’s children or grandchildren.
Forests grow in long rotations (60-150 years in Missouri). The forest owner needs to believe that his property rights are protected so that a long term management plan can be carried out. Reaching forest sustainability demands the incentive to manage for both current and future generations.
Although we’re still defining it, sustainable forestry is an admirable goal. As the Society of American Foresters Task Force points out, they "do not advocate preservation or the return to some ideal ‘natural state,’ but rather the maintenance of the integrity of the forest ecosystem and the production of goods and services." Intensive forest management can be included within this framework if it contributes to the goals for ecosystem management.
The final key to sustainability is education. People can only make informed choices when they understand the issues and options. All of our consumption and production options have strengths, weaknesses, risks and trade-offs. It is critical that the public is informed and educated on the issues and options of natural resource management. An uninformed public may be the greatest threat of all to implementing sustainable forest practices. One uninformed decision can undo what it has taken generations to accomplish.
Private landowners have a big responsibility in the care of our natural resources. They own 93 percent of all land and 85 percent of the forest land in Missouri. Private land is where nearly all of our wildlife and the bulk of our forest products are found. In Missouri, experts are available to help landowners make informed decisions about the stewardship of their property.
These professionals include foresters, wildlife and fisheries biologists, soil scientists and extension specialists - all of whom provide services free of charge. They can show you how to manage your property in a sustainable manner. Incentive programs can help offset expenses of management practices. Forests are a long-term investment, and owners should seek advice before making any decisions that might compromise the ability of future generations to use the forest.
Threats to our Forests
- Wildfires were a threat to Missouri's forests 100 years ago and, to a certain extent, still are today. Wildfires burn more than 50,000 acres of forest and grassland each year. More than 99 percent of these fires are human-caused and preventable. Arsonists set 40 percent of our wildfires.
- Livestock grazing in woodlands browse seedlings and destroy wildlife food and cover. Usually only undesirable tree species remain because they are unpalatable. Sharp hooves damage tree root systems and remove the protective leaf litter on the ground, resulting in accelerated soil erosion.
- Missouri forests evolved with native insects and diseases and have developed defenses against them. Pests from other countries are a much more serious threat. The gypsy moth will reach the state early in the 21st century. Oaks are one of the gypsy moth's favorite foods, and considering the age and composition of our forests, its effects could be devastating. As global commerce continues to grow, we must guard against other harmful pests being introduced into the state.