Back from the Ashes

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Published on: Sep. 2, 2000

Last revision: Nov. 5, 2010

cooperation with the Soil Conservation Service. The agency offered landowners free technical advice on tree planting, forest improvement practices and marketing timber. Since most of Missouri’s forests are privately owned, this was a big step in improving the overall health of the state’s forests. The farm forestry program eventually grew until landowners in all parts of the state had access to a forester.

In 1944, the Conservation Commission formed a Forestry Division under State Forester White. Two years later the Legislature passed the State Forestry Law. A major portion of the law was the creation of the forest crop land program. It enrolled private forest land for increased fire protection and timber trespass enforcement. A landowner received a reduction in property taxes for classifying his land and also paid a yield tax when forest products were harvested. The new law was a big incentive in early farm forestry work.

During the 1950s and 60s budgets gradually increased and programs expanded. The acreage under fire protection grew, the Conservation Department added farm foresters, the size of the Licking nursery doubled and the agency bought more state forest land for public use. Educational efforts were beginning to pay off. With fewer fires to contend with, efforts could be turned to managing forest land. Foresters planted seedlings, harvested trees damaged by fire and removed undesirable trees. Private landowners learned how to improve their forest and wildlife habitat.

Tremendous progress in Missouri’s forest management has been made in the past century. The once-impossible task of fire control in the Ozarks became a reality. Today less than one-tenth of one percent of Missouri burns each year. Wildlife once again abounds. Missouri has once more become a leader in the production of wood products.

Conservation - wise use - has made all this possible. So remarkable has been the recovery that some areas are once again called "wilderness." Old foresters just smile and think back to all the years of firefighting and management that helped renew this valuable resource.

Black Sunday

Old timers will long remember Easter Sunday 1941 as "Black Sunday" in the Ozarks. The right combination came together that day- prolonged drought, high temperatures, low humidity, 55 m.p.h. winds and a few kitchen matches.

For 24 hours it seemed as if all the Ozarks was on fire. In Deer Run State Forest, fire swept about 1,000 acres. The first timber sale on state land was made the following year to

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