Barrels made from Missouri white oak truly represent a 100 percent value-added product from the Show-Me State. From landowners’ woodlands, to master loggers harvesting mature trees, to the manufacturing plants assembling the barrels, white oak woodlands help sustain rural communities across Missouri. And not just white oak but red oak, too, ensures Missouri’s $10 billion forest products economic engine keeps humming along providing everything from flooring to veneer panels.
But the state’s oak forests are threatened. Not from some exotic insect or disease, but from not enough landowners actively managing their woodlands.
“Currently, fewer than 1 in 5 landowners seek advice from a professional forester and less than 1 in 20 have a plan to care for their property,” said state forestry Extension specialist, Hank Stelzer. Without proper care and oversight, forests can become overcrowded, which can lead to declining woodland health and productivity.
“It’s like an unweeded garden. We all know what happens if one doesn’t tend the garden.”
The School of Natural Resources (SNR) in the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) is hoping to help with that. With a major gift from Independent Stave Company, along with matching gifts from forest-related industries and organizations across the state, a new position has been created, Landowner Engagement Specialist, within SNR.
The position will be part of MU Extension’s Woodland Steward Program, which engages and encourages woodland owners to become active stewards of the land. They will learn how to rehabilitate neglected woodlots, use best practices for management, and work in partnership with professional foresters and timber harvesters. The new specialist will also teach classes in the School’s Forest Resource Management Program in sustainable harvesting operations.
“This position will greatly expand forestry outreach and efforts to Missouri’s family forest landowners,” said Rob Kallenbach, associate dean of CAFNR Extension. “These landowners own 83 percent of the state’s 15.2 million acres of forest. This position is what Extension is all about!”
The creation of the new position, and the gifts helping fund it, were announced today at an event on the MU campus.
“It’s been truly remarkable to see the broad spectrum of industries and organizations coming together to help ensure future generations will benefit from our actions today,” Stelzer said.
“I am thrilled that I got to be part of the initiation of this partnership, and now we are seeing it come to fruition,” said Christopher Daubert, vice chancellor and dean of CAFNR.
The position announced today will work closely with the larger multi-state White Oak Initiative, which Independent Stave Company supports.
“This is a relationship that will strengthen our forestry program in SNR,” said Pat Market, director of the School of Natural Resources. “We are grateful for our partners and for the future. We look forward to the next 100 years of forestry education in Missouri.”
“The cooperage industry relies on healthy, sustainable American white oak forests. It is important for us to develop partnerships, like the one we have with CAFNR and Hank Stelzer, to get as many landowners educated, with as many lands management programs in place as possible,” added Brad Boswell, CEO of the Independent Stave Company.
“I believe the Missouri Woodland Steward program can and will move the needle in that endeavor. Industries, like ours, that depend on forest products need to work in conjunction with forestry initiatives, so we continue to have healthy forests for generations.”