Back from the Ashes

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Published on: Sep. 2, 2000

Last revision: Nov. 5, 2010

to unsuspecting Eastern buyers.

When the mills closed, workers were left to eke out a living in the rocky Ozark hills. They burned the cutover woods every year in an effort to encourage grass for their free ranging livestock and to rid the woods of ticks and snakes. This combination of overcutting, annual burning and open range livestock had a major effect on Ozark soils, streams and wildlife.

As early as 1910, there was concern about the condition of Missouri’s forests and wildlife. Gifford Pinchot, first chief of the Forest Service, visited the Ozarks in May of that year. He was accompanied by Gov. Hadley and J.B. White, one of the owners of the Grandin mill and a member of the State Forestry Commission. Their itinerary included visits to the areas around Grandin, Winona and Eminence and a float trip down the Jacks Fork and Current rivers to view cutover land.

In 1912, the University of Missouri established a Department of Forestry in the College of Agriculture. Only 17 people took degrees during the next 9 years, so the course was dropped in 1921 and not started again until 15 years later. In 1936, the university offered a pre-forestry curriculum in the Department of Horticulture.

The millions of barren acres in the Ozarks received no legislative attention until 1925. The Legislature added a Department of Forestry to the State Board of Agriculture and directed that it practice forestry upon lands owned by the state and "advance the understanding and promote the practice of forestry and wise use of forests and forest products in Missouri." They also gave them the job of studying "the causes of fires in the woods, to determine the damage done by them, and to devise means for their control."

The Legislature appropriated $10,000 to start this ambitious new program, but the governor vetoed it. The whole program would have died if not for the Missouri Forestry Association, a group of citizens and wood-using industries. They raised the $10,000 by public subscription and turned it over to the new department.

In the same year as the 1925 forestry law, conservation-minded legislators passed an act requiring the Fish and Game Department to use part of its funds for the purchase of state parks. Those parks became valuable forest additions that later formed the nucleus for present state forest areas at Deer Run, Indian Trail and Meramec.

In February 1925, the Department of Forestry named Paul

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