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Published on: Aug. 16, 2010

A Natural Treasure

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Wine Barrels

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the winter, trees help slow the wind, reducing winter heating bills.

Trees improve air quality and public health by reducing common urban air pollutants such as ozone, nitrogen dioxide and particulates. Trees also allow urban residents the opportunity to see and enjoy nature in the places where they live.

Wildlife Habitat and Biodiversity

In Missouri, we are fortunate to have very diverse landscapes. This great diversity is largely attributed to the fact that four unique ecological sections converge in Missouri. The glacially deposited Central Dissected Till Plains to the north, the Osage Plains to the west, the Ozark Highlands to the south, and the Mississippi Alluvial Basin in the Bootheel each have unique geology, soils, topography, weather and contain unique plant and animal communities.

The Missouri Natural Areas Program has classified some 85 distinct kinds of terrestrial natural communities (including 33 forest and woodland communities) and many other aquatic natural communities. These communities support more than 2,000 native plant species, more than 150 native breeding bird species, 108 native reptile and amphibian species, 67 native mammal species, 200 native fish species, 65 native mussel species, 32 native crayfish species and more than 130 native dragonfly and damselfly species.

Several of these species are found nowhere else but in Missouri!

Although these plants and animals reside in a wide variety of habitats and natural communities, many depend partially or wholly on healthy woodlands and forests. These include everything from ruffed grouse, which rarely leave the woods, to Ozark hellbenders, which live in Ozark streams but depend on forests and woodlands for clean, cool water.

Recreation and Tourism

Missouri citizens are fortunate to have more than 2.6 million acres of federal and state publicly owned forestland within our state. These forests provide places for kids (young and old) to explore, as well as countless recreational opportunities, including hiking and backpacking, canoeing and kayaking, hunting and fishing, collecting mushrooms and berries, wildlife viewing, camping, picnicking, scenic drives and much more.

The importance of these opportunities is well demonstrated in the 2003 Conservation Opinion Survey, which reveals that more than half of Missourians consider spending time outdoors to be their most enjoyable activity.

In addition, Missouri’s forests, both public and private, provide the backdrop for much of Missouri’s tourism industry. It is hard to imagine a Saturday trip to Missouri’s wine country, a weekend trip to the Current River for floating or a family vacation in Branson without the scenery afforded by Missouri’s forests.

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