Ozark habitats benefit from Forest Service Landscape Scale Restoration grant

Coldwater Conservation Area in Missouri’s Ozarks

A view of a restored glade on the Coldwater Conservation Area in Missouri’s Ozarks. Courtesy photo by Joe Tousignant. Photo taken May 30, 2010.

Buford Mountain Conservation Area

Missouri Department of Conservation is working on glade/woodland restorations on Buford Mountain Conservation Area and surrounding private landowners. Courtesy photo by Joe Tousignant.  Photo taken July 4, 2011.

A wide-reaching public/private partnership partially funded by a USDA Forest Service Landscape Scale Restoration (LSR) grant is leading to positive outcomes for forests and communities across the Ozarks of Missouri.

The Heart of the Ozarks LSR Project covers priority forest resources in 14 counties across Missouri’s Ozarks region. The USDA Forest Service provided $530,000 in LSR grant funding, and the Missouri Department of Conservation made matching contributions totaling $531,640 of in-kind funding and landowner technical assistance.

The public/private partnership includes the Missouri Department of Conservation and the L-A-D Foundation, which owns 143,000 acres of land and is the state’s largest private landowner. The foundation provides support to various conservation projects, focusing on Missouri’s Ozarks region, among other goals.

Joe Tousignant, project field manager for the Missouri Department of Conservation, said, “This is a multi-level project. We did work on L-A-D Foundation land. We’re also working on state-owned conservation areas, as well as on private land.”

The Heart of the Ozarks LSR Project is helping to increase the management level of private and public lands for forested woodland resources. This includes reducing invasive plant spread and restoring natural communities and the flora and fauna that depend on them, as well as prescribed burning and thinning, about 2,600 acres. The work is based on the geography of the priority forests in Missouri, including oak hickory woodlands in the Ozarks.

Through the Scenic Rivers Invasive Species Partnership (SRISP) — a collaboration of federal, state and local government agencies as well as tribes, individuals and various interested groups — the project will remove sericea lespedeza, spotted knapweed, tree of heaven and other emerging invasive plant threats from the project area. This work accounts for $100,000 of the $530,000 in project funding.

“We’re contracting with them to do invasive species control along county roads through the project,” Tousignant said. “The funding is really helping this project move forward.”

To date, forest improvement tasks completed with project funding include:

  • 202 acres of forest, woodland and glade thinning
  • 47,530 feet of fire breaks
  • 974 acres of prescribed burning
  • 16 acres of invasive species control
  • Five forest stewardship plans totaling 1,619 acres

Private contractors are completing the work on both public lands and private landowner properties, a rare combination. One component of the project is directly hiring private contractors for high-priority work on private lands that landowners might not be able to complete themselves. For example, Tousignant described management taking place on private land that includes a very high-priority glade and woodland complex — work that the landowner himself wouldn’t have had the physical or financial means to carry out.

Tousignant also discussed the benefits of a joint public/private land project on the Buford Mountain Conservation Area and adjacent private land.

“I think it makes it easier for us as public land managers to do work on adjacent private lands,” Tousignant said. “This is simply due to the placement of where the burn lines are located and to be able to complete an entire glade or woodland unit instead of stopping arbitrarily on a property line.”

He added, “This project also allows us to do joint projects with multiple private landowners. This makes the logistics simpler, and we see our efforts go further that way.”

The project started in January 2021 and is scheduled to be completed in December 2023.