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Building Natural Wealth

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Published on: Nov. 2, 2003

Last revision: Nov. 16, 2010

for Ozarks forests," Drey said. "Before that, cattle and hogs were turned loose in the woods to forage. People would burn your land to encourage grass for them. Spencer Jones, a local landowner, was a 'onestring guitar' who persisted and finally succeeded in getting the laws changed to overturn open range."

Attitudes changed, too, and people began to value the oaks, hickories and pines that grow on the steep slopes, dry ridges and deep hollows of the Ozarks.

"People take better care of their timber, now," Drey observed. "I compliment the Conservation Department for their forestry education efforts. It's had a major impact. People understand that timber is a crop, that it grows, and if you handle it right you can come back later and take another crop. Oh, you still find instances of arson and grudge fires, but nothing like it used to be."

A forest fire led to Drey's largest land acquisition. He owned about 37,000 acres in 1954 when he was called out to help fight a fire on public land. After working all night, he sat down to rest by Charlie Kirk, who was a forester for National Distillers, a company which owned and harvested vast amounts of white oak for making whiskey barrels.

Kirk said that National Distillers had directed him to "liquidate" (clear cut) the rest of the white oak on their 90,000 acres of land. After the fire was out, Drey immediately went to New York to make an offer for their land to prevent the clearing.

"I ended up buying it, and I've been in over my head ever since," Drey said.

The acquisition was the largest single land purchase for conservation in Missouri history. Drey hired professional foresters to help. Lee Paulsell was the first, along with Charlie Kirk and present-day manager Clint Trammel. Trammel has managed the Pioneer Forest since 1978.

Drey's forest management philosophy is to harvest individual trees as they reach maturity and maximum value, and to remove trees that are defective. This "uneven-aged" management strategy contrasts with "even-aged" management, where all the trees in a given area are harvested at one time. The trees that replace them are all the same age.

Drey expanded a program called Continuous Forest Inventory begun by National Distillers in 1952 . Pioneer Forest was divided into 498, one-fifth-acre study plots. Every five years the plots are monitored for tree vigor, growth,

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