Note To Our Readers

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Have you ever wondered how many trees are in Missouri? Perhaps you have noticed trees dying or had concerns about the health of the trees and woods in your community or county. Have you questioned which trees are the most important to Missouri and why? Curious as to whether our forest is important to whitetail deer, wild turkeys, songbirds and other wildlife? Well, you are not alone. I and most professional foresters ask ourselves the same questions. The good news is we now have an answer to many of these questions, or at least have a plan to answer them in the future.

The Conservation Department recently completed a two-year project called the Missouri Forest Resource Assessment and Strategy. It was designed to evaluate statewide forest conditions and how they relate to threats and opportunities influencing forest health and productivity. It also includes a comprehensive strategy and potential action items for sustaining our forest for the well-being of our kids, grandkids and generations to come. For the purpose of the Forest Resource Assessment and Strategy, the term “forest resource” is all-inclusive of trees in towns, the woods on your property and publicly owned forestland. The word “forest” represents the statewide tree resource regardless of ownership.

You may be wondering, why now? Why is it suddenly important to invest this much effort into a process and document that focuses on the forest resource in Missouri? There are several reasons. In May of 2008, the U.S. Congress passed the latest version of the federal Farm Bill, which includes a requirement for each state to develop a statewide forest resource assessment and strategy in order to continue to make federal forestry programs available to private landowners. Because these programs are important in assisting Missouri’s communities and landowners with the care of their trees and woods, the Department considered the completion of the Forest Resource Assessment and Strategy a high priority. Our Missouri forest is under increasing pressures created by recent discoveries of new exotic and invasive insects, diseases and plants; increased land clearing that results in fragmented habitat for wildlife; and potential new markets for wood products. In light of these pressures, and the fact Missouri could significantly benefit from a statewide assessment and plan for our forest, the timing could not have been better.

The Forest Resource Assessment and Strategy is guided by three important priorities: 1) conserving working forest landscapes, 2) protecting forests from harm and 3) enhancing public benefits from trees and forests. The results reveal our forest resource is at a unique crossroads. While Missouri’s forest is increasingly threatened, it offers tremendous potential to alleviate many of our most pressing social and environmental challenges. Properly addressing these threats and opportunities is far more than any one agency or organization can tackle on its own. This complex task will require unprecedented levels of collaboration and partnership between conservation agencies, nongovernmental organizations, the forest industry and dedicated individuals. It will also necessitate increased public awareness of the importance of our trees, woods and forests, and public involvement in activities that enhance their sustainability. The Forest Resource Assessment and Strategy serves as the catalyst to make this happen, but, more importantly, it is a call to action. This issue of the Conservationist will introduce you to the Forest Resource Assessment and Strategy and its results. It is my hope that the following articles will draw attention to the amazing benefits our forest provides to each citizen and inspire you to get into the forest.

Lisa Allen, state forester

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