Exemplifying Shared Stewardship Through Cooperative Foresters

Considering the over 40 years of successful partnership between the NWTF and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it is easy to say that the shared stewardship approach taken to benefit natural resources is a well-oiled machine that delivers results.

Throughout the country, the NWTF’s partnerships with the USDA, numerous other government agencies (on both a state and federal level) and other conservation organizations has continually reiterated that substantial impacts come through partnerships that share resources, expertise and determination. Cooperative foresters employed by both the NWTF and the USDA are a great example of this shared stewardship approach.

These cooperative foresters work in many states and focus on region-specific conservation delivery, including leveraging funds for projects, delivering habitat enhancement, providing technical assistance, reaching private landowners and oftentimes hoping in the tractor or picking up a shovel.

Missouri is no exception when it comes to the shared stewardship method, either. Justin Ferguson and Will Rechkemmer  each accomplish  specific projects or provide specific services in focal areas  mutually recognized as important places to work by all parties.

“My position exists as a partnership between the NWTF, the NRCS and the Private Lands Services Division of Missouri Department of Conservation,” Ferguson said. “The primary goal of my cooperative position is providing technical assistance to private landowners in the St. Francois Knobs region of the Ozarks. This region is located in the southeastern part of the state.” 

One of Ferguson’s primary objectives when providing technical assistance to private landowners is creating and outlining forest management plans.

“For most landowners I work with, the primary goals are to improve wildlife habitat and to manage for sustainable production of forest products,” Ferguson said. “In most cases, these goals are not mutually exclusive and management for timber value can improve wildlife habitat.”

“I have been in the position for a little over two years now and I have developed thirty three Forest Management Plans to date, totaling over 4,000 acres of private lands influenced. Most of my landowners utilize my forest management plans to apply for grants to implement forest management projects on their property.”

Like Ferguson, Rechkemmer is a cooperative USDA and NWTF employee working with private landowners and also working on National Forests administered by the Forest Service.

“I am partnered with the Forest Service and NRCS,” Rechkemmer said. “About 75% of my time is spent working with the Forest Service on our existing supplemental project agreements and working with them to develop new projects that will benefit open woodlands and open lands on the Mark Twain National Forest.”

Rechkemmer is currently helping orchestrate two supplemental project agreements, one in southeastern Missouri and one in the southwestern part of the state.

“The southeastern Missouri project is focused on restoring old fields that have become overgrown with thick brush and invasive species,” Rechkemmer said. “We are using a combination of brush mastication, mowing and invasive species treatments to reclaim these fields.”

“The southwestern project is focused on restoring oak woodland and associated glades through cedar removal and timber stand improvement. In the future, we plan to expand our work with the Forest Service on the Mark Twain National Forest by adding additional supplemental project agreements in each zone of the national forest, focusing on healthy woodlands and open lands.”

The other 25% of Rechkemmer’s time is spent working with private landowners like Ferguson.

To learn more about NWTF’s presence in Missouri, visit https://www.nwtf.org/about/state/missouri.

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