If you want to determine what importance trees on privately owned land have in the management of Missouri’s natural resources, do a little math.

Add up all the acres owned by the Missouri Department of Conservation, United States Forest Service, Department of Natural Resources, National Park Service and all the other civic, state and federal organizations that have public land in the state. All the city parks, state parks and huge tracts of Mark Twain National Forest and any other areas that are considered “public land” will be on this list. Although that may seem like a lot of territory, when you combine all these sites, you have approximately seven percent of the land in Missouri. Put another way, 93 percent of the land that influences our state’s fish, forest and wildlife resources is in private ownership.

Looking at it from this perspective, it’s easy to understand why the Missouri Department of Conservation is always interested in providing assistance to landowners who are interested in managing their land in a more conservation-friendly manner. The Department of Conservation realizes Missourians care about conserving forests, fish and wildlife and, as a result, Department personnel are always willing to work with citizens to sustain healthy forests, fish and wildlife.

Which brings us back to the topic of trees on privately owned land.

Whether you have a large farming operation or merely own a few acres outside the city limits, planting the right trees in the right places cam make big improvements on your land. Landowners wishing to make forestry improvements on their property can do so through the Missouri Department of Conservation’s annual tree seedling sales program, which is currently underway. Through this program, landowners can purchase bundles of seedling trees from the Department’s George O. White Nursery in Licking. Bundle sizes vary, depending on the purpose of the planting. The ordering period will run through April 15. Orders are filled on a first-come, first served basis. Because of the popularity of this program, shortages in planting stock of some species occur soon after the ordering process starts. Individuals can check availability at mdc.mo.gov/seedlings or by calling 573-674-3229.

Landowners can use the Department’s tree seedling sales program to satisfy a variety of needs. Trees can provide a much-needed windbreak for livestock. A well-placed group of trees can provide energy savings by shielding poultry houses (or, in some cases, people houses) from cold winter winds. Trees planted next spring can lead to additional income from timber sales several years down the road. Streams with an erosion problem can greatly benefit from trees placed along the bank.

Or, for the hunter or nature watcher in the family, trees can provide food and cover for wildlife. With the right trees and the proper management, an area that once provided little habitat could become a haven for a variety of species.

Because trees have to be purchased in bundles, this program is not designed for homeowners looking for one or two ornamental trees. The tree seedling program is intended for landowners who want to make timber-stand additions or improvements such as windbreaks, wildlife cover or, perhaps, a bird-viewing area.

People wishing to order trees through the Department of Conservation’s Tree Seedling program can order online at mdc.mo.gov/seedlings or stop by a Department office and pick up a catalog and order form. If ordering by paper form, do not send money with your order. The order will be processed and you will receive an acknowledgement stating what planting stock can be furnished. This acknowledgement is also your billing notice. After receiving this, send your payment along with the stub portion of the acknowledgement to the nursery.

Your seedling bundles will be shipped starting the last week of February through the second week of May, but you can indicate on your order form which week you would like them to arrive. When your trees arrive, you are ready to plant. It is recommended you consult with a Department of Conservation forester, wildlife biologist or private land conservationist before undertaking an extensive planting project.

For more information about the Missouri Department of Conservation’s tree seedling program, contact your nearest Department of Conservation office or log onto www.missouriconservation.org

Francis Skalicky is the media specialist for the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Southwest Region. For more information about conservation issues, call 417-895-6880.