Shared stewardship will benefit the public

File- Mark Twain National Forest

Shared stewardship is a collaborative approach to land management that builds on a long history of cooperation and partnership. 

In April, the Missouri Agreement for Shared Stewardship was signed.

This agreement provides a mechanism for land managers like Mark Twain National Forest, Missouri Department of Conservation and Missouri Department of Natural Resources to work even more collaboratively with partners to identify priority projects, coordinate investments and implement restoration of natural communities on a landscape scale.

Why is that important?

• Promoting game animal populations like deer, turkey, and quail requires healthy ecosystems across federal, state and private lands in Missouri.

• Reducing negative impacts from invasive species like feral hogs or Asian honeysuckle is only effective when done across boundary lines.

• Responding to more frequently recurring natural disasters like flooding, severe storms and wildfire is also most effective when working together. 

A shared stewardship agreement provides the umbrella under which these collaborative projects can be accomplished. 

Now that it is in place, Missouri Department of Conservation, Department of Natural Resources and the Forest Service are exploring opportunities to make positive impacts across management jurisdictions.

Glades, woodlands, fens and Missouri’s many other important natural communities will benefit from future coordinated projects.

Both the Forest Service and the state of Missouri have already identified critical work areas of initial focus. 

Comprehensive Conservation Management Strategy identified landscapes where natural restoration is vitally important, and many of these areas include land in Mark Twain National Forest and Missouri State Parks.

Future projects based on this agreement could bolster local economies through contracted work. 

The long-term benefits of natural restoration will add value to Missouri’s outdoor recreation and tourism industries, as hunting, fishing, hiking and other activities continue to draw visitors to the Ozarks. 

Additionally, Missouri’s forest products industry is important to the local economy of many counties and is a significant state-wide economic driver as well. 

The industry annually supports approximately 46,000 jobs and contributes $10.3 billion to the state’s economy. 

Most importantly, caring for the land gives future generations a chance to benefit from the natural beauty of Missouri’s landscapes. 

The shared agreement’s signatories were USDA Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen, MDC Director Sara Parker Pauley and Missouri DNR Director Carol Comer. Director Comer passed away in June, just a few months after the agreement signing. 

Although she will not be able to witness them herself, the fruit borne from this collaboration will be a lasting testament to her unwavering service and dedication to the people and natural resources of Missouri.

Healthy forests provide clean air and water, promote diverse plant and animal habitat, and support strong and resilient communities. 

While Shared Stewardship is a new term, collaboration and coordination have long been a tradition in Missouri across its mosaic of forest ownership.

Forest land covers roughly 34% of Missouri’s total land area.

The shared agreement identifies specific shared priorities for forest management, including managing wildland fire and invasive pests, protecting and restoring watersheds and improving wildlife habitat and recreation opportunities.

With the agreement signed, the state agencies and the Forest Service will work together to prioritize locations where they will have the greatest impact, share risks and decisions where appropriate and share resources across ownership boundaries when necessary to create positive effects on the forest resources for the citizens of Missouri.