Forest Care

Photo of mostly green wooded area.
Forest Care

Responsible forest management is the key to a healthy forest. As part of an effective management program, sometimes cuts are needed to help regenerate parts of the forest. Also, consideration for wildlife and aesthetic value are key when deciding when and what cuts need to be made. Careful cutting of trees is a large part of effective forest management and creates a greater diversity of plant and animal life in our forests.

Some wood products are now being labeled "green." This means that those wood products come from a forest that is sustainably managed. In other words, those products come from a forest that is aggressively promoting new growth and forest regeneration, while at the same time offering mature trees to be used for quality wood products.

In Missouri, experts from the Department of Conservation are available to help landowners make the right decisions about stewardship of their property. These professionals include foresters, wildlife and fisheries biologists, soil scientists, and extension specialists, and they are all available to help free of charge.

Benefits of Management


Most of Missouri's recreation and tourism industry is centered in forested regions of our state.


Healthy forests protect hillsides from erosion, filter the air, soften the extremes of weather, and beautify urban areas. They also keep unwanted runoff out of our streams.


Forests represent a diverse resource of plants, animals, birds, and other life forms. Today, Missouri is home to at least 730 species of wildlife, many of which live in our forests and are sustained through the careful management of tree growth in those forests. Whitetail deer, wild turkeys, and wood ducks were almost extinct at the turn of the century. Wildlife conservation and habitat enhancement has resulted in flourishing populations of these and other species we now take almost for granted. Today, foresters are working with other conservation professionals to improve habitats and ensure survival of other wildlife species.

Dangers to Forests


  • Missouri forests evolved with native insects and diseases and have developed defenses against them. Pests from other countries are a much more serious threat to our forests.
  • As global commerce continues to grow, we must guard against other harmful pests being introduced.
  • The spongy moth, formerly known as the gypsy moth, is expected to reach the state early in the 21st century. Oaks are one of the moth's favorite foods, and the spongy moth's effect on our oak forests could be devastating.


  • Grazing in woodland areas is a serious detriment to tree regeneration and wildlife habitat. Usually only undesirable tree species remain because they are unpalatable to the livestock grazing on them.
  • Sharp hooves damage tree root systems and remove the protective leaf litter on the ground, resulting in accelerated soil erosion.


  • Fire prevention and control has been a top priority for foresters in Missouri since the founding of the Society of American Foresters in 1900. At least three-fourths of the land outside state parks burned more than twice each year as recently as the 1920s and 1930s. Today, less than one-tenth of 1 percent of Missouri forest land is burned.
  • Although forest fires are still a major threat to Missouri's forests, fire management today is the best it's ever been. Lookout towers, once common sights throughout the heavily forested areas of the Ozarks, are disappearing because they are no longer needed. Fires today are much fewer and farther between, and the acreage lost is a tiny fraction of the total protected area.
  • Less than one-tenth of 1 percent of Missouri's forests burn each year, and 99 percent of those fires are preventable. Most are accidental and are caused by acts such as burning trash, leaves, or other debris on a windy day; tossing cigarettes; children playing with matches; or improperly extinguished campfires.
  • While most forest fires in Missouri are accidents and are preventable, a full 40 percent of forest fires that burn every year are deliberately set. Arson accounts for at least one out of every three forest fires every year. To report arsonists, the Department of Conservation has set up a toll-free hotline, Operation Forest Arson, at 1-800-392-1111.