Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Ozarks and Missouri

The Ozarks in Missouri are a pretty mystical place. I was told repeatedly it is one of the richest areas in the world in terms of biodiversity. The prized Current River alone houses many exotic species who either reside here, and only here, or their strongest and most representative population is here. I was fortunate enough to meet a few people who understand the magnitude of the natural treasure they have at their doorstep and to learn about what they are doing to best utilize, and preserve it.

The folks who manage the Pioneer Forest, the largest privately held forest in the state (also FSC certified) are doing their best to keep the forest healthy while utilizing all of the timber that is there. Terry Cunningham, Forest Manager at Pioneer Forest says they have not received one complaint in areas they are working that are adjacent to Mark Twain National Forest (highly trafficked and visible areas) but rather they have actually been complimented on multiple occasions about their work. The management plan that they utilize, which is uneven growth management, mimicks the natural process that an untouched forest goes through. Much of the forest (shown with the Current River) has been logged in the past five years. Can you tell? Neither could I.

But Kurt Hohmeyer at the Nature Conservancy in Van Buren, MO was kind enough to show me what it could look like. He spared no words in calling this particular forested property "a rape job" ... which it undoubtedly is. It is not a true clearcut job but the resulting destruction and the lacking potential for short term quality growth are both quite clear.

Terry Cunningham of Pioneer Forests looks out over one of the valleys that includes Pioneer Forest land and Mark Twain National Forest land.

The Pioneer Forest and Current River. Much of the land seen here has been harvested in the past five years.

The "Rape job", shown to me by the Nature Conservancy on another swath of prviate land. **Note - this is NOT Pioneer Forest land but rather other privately held land in the Ozarks that was, in the opinions of people I spoke to, poorly managed. This photo is to illustrate what can happen when sustainable forestry is not practiced. I was told it will take many years for this land to produce healthy trees again because pines will have to battle with low quality plant and underbrush.

Logging operation in the Pioneer Forest. Only select trees are felled in accordance with a forester's management plan. This is FSC certified wood.

Then there are the the pioneers of further south in Doniphan.
"Head down Highway 160 towards Poplar Bluff and you'll see a junkyard on your left with a big blue building....look for Bill." This is the direction I get to find Ozark Quality Hardwoods with Bill Corley, the General Manager of this new Co-op.

At this junkyard lies a new wood drying kiln in the making that will be very efficient and only work with wood that has been acquired in an environmentally responsible method. It may look crude at the moment, but these folks are working on restoring an old kiln that will run off of wood, not fossil fuels, and that, while using water to cool in the drying process, will actually output 5 parts of water for every three parts used. It will dry wood quickly but not too quickly, and produce 1% waste wood as opposed to many traditional kilns that produce upto 10% waste.

Fixing a pipe for fitting in the space that the wood will be kiln dried.

Fitting the pipes on the kiln and a detail shot of the yard.

And here's one more view of the region for good measure. I was blessed with a lot of fog during my days there.

The view from Skyline Drive in Van Buren, MO.

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