Conserving Missouri’s Natural Beauty
8 Jun 2021
Gentle rolling hills, cool green forests and streams that meander through the landscape are some of the many reasons so many locals and visitors love Southeast Missouri. We, too, love these aspects of the area and we call this home because this is where nature left an abundance of minerals, deep inside the earth.
As a local business and as employees who are proud to work and live in this area, operating responsibly means making sure that we protect and conserve the environment for generations to come. One way we do this is by managing the forests and natural landscapes on property we own.
“Doe Run owns nearly 52,000 acres of surface land and our land management team maintains several sites with unique features and histories,” said Andrew Jackson, real estate coordinator at Doe Run. “About 38,000 acres of our land is included in our active forestry program. We work cooperatively with the U.S. Forest Service to maintain our forests so they blend seamlessly with those of federal lands. In this way, we can provide continuous tracts that benefit local flora and fauna.”
“Our approach to forestry management is to manage each area to its fullest potential. The careful balance between maintaining the forest and harvesting trees provides a valuable, renewable resource for industries while also ensuring that Missouri’s forests flourish for centuries to come.”Dave Patterson, forester at Doe Run
Managing Doe Run’s Forests
Doe Run operates in the same region as the Mark Twain National Forest. Managing the wooded acres in our care is a responsibility our forestry management team takes seriously. Selective harvesting is conducted on our forested acreage. These acres are divided into smaller plots called stands. We inventory each stand to see which tree species grow there, then we create a plan that factors in weather, insect populations and growing conditions to grow the best trees possible at each site. We aim to thin out each stand every 15 years, which means we remove diseased and rotted trees to provide more space for healthy trees to absorb sunlight and nutrients.
“When we cut down select trees and sell them to local companies, we are improving the value of those trees left behind,” said Dave. “This careful balance between harvesting and maintenance provides a valuable, renewable resource for the local lumber industries while also ensuring that our forests flourish for centuries to come.”
Centuries ago, loggers used crosscut saws and mules to cut down trees and carry them to settlements or nearby rivers for transportation. Later, chainsaws and tractors made cutting down timber easier for loggers. Today, we are using even more advanced equipment that enables us to cut trees in a way that is better for the forest. Doe Run uses an innovative track cutter that nimbly cuts the tree to the exact lengths we need. Then, a forwarder machine picks up logs and loads them onto a truck. Without this machine, trees would have to be dragged across the forest floor, which disrupts the soil and can injure smaller trees and bushes. This equipment has the added benefit of keeping employees safer while being more efficient. Typically, Doe Run cuts 3 to 4 million board feet of timber per year. This timber is used in flooring, railroad ties, building materials, cabinets and barrels.
“The white oak in Southeast Missouri is considered the best in the world by wine and whiskey makers because the trees grow slower here,” said Dave. “Slower growth keeps the wood denser for a tightly sealed and more flavorful barrel. A white oak tree must grow for nearly 100 years before it is large enough to make a barrel. It’s just another example of how important these forests are. Our great-grandchildren could come to these forests and see some of the very same trees we are caring for today.”
Experiencing Nature Up Close
Some of Doe Run’s lands are dedicated to conservation. One of the most unique conservation sites owned by Doe Run is Grasshopper Hollow, a hidden jewel located in Reynolds County, west of Centerville. Doe Run owns 120 acres of this 593-acre natural area and we lease our portion of the natural area to The Nature Conservancy. Together with the Missouri Department of Conservation and the U.S. Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy jointly manages the areas. Grasshopper Hollow contains the largest known fen grouping in unglaciated North America. These low, marsh-like areas help collect overflow water when rivers flood and provide a home for native animal and plant species. Open to the public and accessible on a gravel road, Grasshopper Hollow is a terrific spot for bird watching. Southeast Missouri residents and visitors have the opportunity to view this wetland and its inhabitants firsthand by walking the Mary Bronstein Nature Trail, located near the intersection of Highway 72 and County Road 860.
Another unique area of property owned by Doe Run is the rhyolite formation that makes up Hughes Mountain. The fractures of these rocks, known locally as the Devil’s Honeycomb, formed as molten rock from ancient volcanos cooled and contracted some 1.4 billion years ago. This created a hexagonal pattern of columns that resemble a honeycomb, making this one of the most unique geological features in Missouri. Visitors can hike to the top of Hughes Mountain. The trail is accessible from Highway M, about five miles east of Highway 21.
Some of Doe Run’s conservation properties have been earmarked for the purpose of future land transfers to the U.S. Forest Service or other interested conservation agencies. Three such properties with interesting histories are the Hazelton Springs, Silvey and Irish Wilderness properties.
Hazelton Springs in Texas County, sits along the Big Piney River. During pioneer days, the river access and rich forests made the area a prime location for the lumber industry to mill timber and ship wood products down the Big Piney and Gasconade Rivers, eventually bound for St. Louis. The river also was ideal for a gristmill powered by a water wheel.
“This was once the only grain mill in the area, so a small town built up around it,” said Andrew, whose great-great-grandfather once ran the mill. “It also was once the site of a sawmill and trout farm. Today, the forest has reclaimed the area once again, though you can still see the grist mill and outlines of the old post office and general store.”
The Silvey property is located near the border of Ozark and Taney County. Silvey’s primary beauty is a natural glade. Glades are small, thin-soiled rocky clearings often found in forested areas, providing views of exposed igneous and dolomite bedrock. This area is not accessible to visitors.
Another historic forest settlement Doe Run manages is the Irish Wilderness. Once a settlement of Irish immigrants, this rolling area now consists of a dense forest of oak, hickory, shortleaf pine and other smaller trees. Visitors hiking the 18-mile trail can see dried creek beds, grasslands, glades, bluff country, and breathtaking views overlooking the Eleven Point River. They might also encounter white-tailed deer, rabbits, gray foxes, turkey, hawks, owls and many types of songbirds.