Mark Twain Nat'l Forest inviting public to comment on Forest health Initiative

Mark Twain Nat'l Forest inviting public to comment on Forest health Initiative


The Mark Twain National Forest (Forest) is currently inviting the public to comment on the Forest Health Initiative (FHI) project that will promote healthy forests in areas where oak decline has been documented. 

By improving habitat and forest conditions, the project will have the added benefit of making the forest a safer place for visitors and firefighters alike—removing many of the hazardous trees in these areas, and allowing new oak and pine to grow.

The Forest Health Initiative project’s main objectives are to: 

  • reduce the risk or extent of, or increase the resilience to, insect or disease infestations in designated areas
  • treat areas of high risk by focusing on the removal of dead and dying white, black, red and scarlet oaks
  • provide for safety of forest users, adjacent landowners, and other values at risk by reducing hazards from falling debris
  • recover valuable timber products through harvest; and move the Analysis Area toward the desired condition identified in the Forest Plan

Preliminary investigations into the declining oak across the Forest via aerial detection flights and field reconnaissance indicated that areas of the Forest subjected to drought events in previous years are experiencing various stages of oak decline and mortality. 

The drought conditions along with other contributing stress factors (stand age, root disease, insect damage, and site conditions) have resulted in a need to harvest (in areas across the Forest) the red oak group (red oak, black oak, scarlet oak) and white oak before they die. 

Some oak sprouting occurs by cutting trees before they die, which will help retain oak in the unhealthy stands. 

Since dead oak trees do not stump sprout, the dead oaks may be replaced by mixed species, including currently suppressed trees from the understory.  This could result in a shortage of the red oak group and white oak in the future. 

The FHI project will help regenerate white oak and shortleaf pine in the affected areas. 

Benefits associated with this project include: 

  • enhanced forest health
  • improved wildlife habitat
  • reduced susceptibility to insects and disease
  • identification and protection of historic properties
  • improved safety for forest visitors
  • improved scenic quality
  • long-term reduction of heavy fuel loads

Silvicultural tools to influence the future stand composition and structure through management includes: shortleaf pine planting/release, natural regeneration site preparation, and pre-commercial thinning.

Forest Supervisor Sherri Schwenke stated, “Now that the problem areas have been identified, it is time to start the oak regeneration process before the stands die; and improving visitor safety and recovering value from the stands, at the same time as improving habitat, is smart forest management.”  The FHI project was designed in consultation with a collaborative group representing varying interests in the Forest. 

“Collaboration played an important role in planning the Forest Health Initiative,” said Schwenke, “and we continue to look for valuable input from the public to effectively manage your public lands.”

The Forest is seeking written comments in the continued development of the FHI project. A detailed summary of the ongoing analysis and the effects of implementing the proposed activities on various resources in the FHI proposal are now available in a document titledProposed Action and Preliminary Alternatives for 30-Day Comment Period – Forest Health Initiative Project. Interested parties can view a copy on this document and other supporting documents on the Mark Twain National Forest Website here (scroll down to the Forest Health Initiative project).

Mark Twain National Forest is the largest public land manager in Missouri with 1.5 million acres in 29 counties in southern and central Missouri.

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