One of the unsung heroes of the Missouri agricultural economy is the forestry industry, which contributes $7.3 billion annually to the state’s economy, according to the Missouri Forest Product Association. The Missouri timber industry is among the strongest in the country. In the southern part of the state, lumber mills scatter the landscape.
“About one-third of Missouri’s landscape is forested,” said Mike Bill, Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) forester. “That translates to about 15 million acres, and 83 percent is privately owned. These industries support over 44,000 jobs at a payroll of over $2.1 billion and are responsible for about $715 million in taxes that help run our state and country.”
A healthy forest is important to maintaining the industry’s strength. This includes promoting growth, especially in the areas of the state where the timber industry is the strongest. Measures must be put into place to enhance and protect wildlife habitat and ensure clean water flows from forested woodsheds, according to Bill.
Rural communities often depend on the timber industry to help sustain them. Logging operations account for over half of the economy in some areas of the state. The MDC recommends checking woodlots for pests and taking care of them quickly, so as not to harm the forests and to increase yields. The MDC will provide landowners with several management services if the landowner follows a long-term plan to help their forest.
Management practices are the most efficient way to promote forest growth and to keep the timber industry going strong.
“Many forest restoration activities include commercial timber harvests,” Bill said. “Properly planned timber harvests can help promote sustainable forests.”
The best way to ensure that resources are being used and forests are properly cared for is to talk with a professional forester. Foresters can guide landowners through the process of developing a long-term plan to nourish forest communities, Bill explained.
Missouri forests are faced with several threats that relate to the sustainability of the trees.
“Risks include forest health issues, such as Emerald Ash Borer, Gypsy Moth, Thousand Cankers Disease, Dutch Elm Disease, Oak Wilt, White Oak Mortality, and a host of other diseases and infestations could cause decline,” said Jennifer Behnken, MDC community forester.
A professional forester can monitor the area and recommend management practices to prevent forests from being devastated by disease.
It’s up to Missouri landowners to implement management practices with the MDC to preserve and grow the forested landscape. The state has over 140 indigenous trees in its forests, according to the MDC, which account for a large portion of the wood products industry nationwide.