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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • Celebrating 75 Years: Shaping the Mark Twain National Forest

  • This September, the Mark Twain National Forest turns 75, and Jim Turner of Rolla spent more than half of those years shaping the forest in to what it is today.
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  • This September, the Mark Twain National Forest turns 75, and Jim Turner of Rolla spent more than half of those years shaping the forest in to what it is today.
    "I was trained as a forester and in forest management at North Carolina State and Duke University," said Turner. "I remember arriving in Salem in July of 1963 on a Trailways bus with a suitcase and a duffle bag. It was late in the evening and I looked out the window and it was just a brushy expanse. I thought, 'Where is the forest?'"
    He came here on a one-year assignment to research the history of the U.S. Forest Service's land acquisitions. More than 50 years later, he is still here.
    "I worked as a land appraiser and was in charge of land acquisitions for 44 years for the Mark Twain Forest," said the 74-year old.
    He explained that the history of the 3 million acres of Missouri's only national forest really began in the 1920s. It was during that time when concerned citizens were worried about abandoned or idle acreage. There was land that had been stripped of its timber, burned or overused.
    In 1929, the Missouri Legislature passed the first of several consent acts which allowed the federal government to purchase lands to watersheds and reduce erosion. Land was acquired from willing landowners in several purchase units.
    In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed the establishment of two national forests in Missouri — the Mark Twain National Forest in the southwestern part of Missouri and the Clark National Forest in the southeastern part of the state.
    Turner's job was to work with landowners who wanted to sell or trade land with the U.S. Forest Service.
    "So I would hear from owners who would say, 'I got this place on the Gasconade and we would like to sell it.' I would appraise it and see if we could work out a deal or not," he explained to the Daily News. "I liked working with people and adding to the national forest.
    While on a map, the Mark Twain National Forest looks like a solid green shape, that is not truly the case. Turner said that within those broad boundaries, there is private land and towns or villages.
    "So it was my job to fill in those gaps because it cost money to survey and maintain all those boundaries."
    His proudest moment was his role in the acquisition of Greer Springs in Oregon County. It was not just the springs which pour 200 million gallons of water into the Eleven Point River  but the 7,000 surrounding acres.
    Turner recalled, "We worked on this for several years, but I remember well the closing of the deal in St. Louis. I was walking around with a $3.5 million check from the U.S. Treasury (Department) in my pocket."
    Page 2 of 2 - Most of his job was spent in what is now the Mark Twain National Forest supervisor's office which is located of Fairgrounds Road in Rolla.
    "I would spend one week in the field and then have enough data to spend weeks in the office," he explained.
    Much of that office has changed over the decades, he said. Jobs have been consolidated and office roles have been combined. Despite that fact, he played an important role in the forest's history.
    "It was a good organization to work for," Turner said. "I really did enjoy it, and if I had to do it again, I wouldn't change a thing.”

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