April 30, 2012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
U.S. Forest Service presents public partnership opportunities to MRPC
ST. JAMES – Representatives from Mark Twain National Forest explained the benefits of participating in stewardship contracting, and other collaborative opportunities with the U.S. Forest Service, to the Meramec Regional Planning Commission (MRPC) board during its regular meeting April 12.
David Whittekiend, forest supervisor with Mark Twain National Forest headquartered in Rolla, provided information on the public partnerships.
Whittekiend was accompanied by Teresa Chase, deputy supervisor; Kim Bittle, district ranger for the Houston/Rolla/Cedar Creek district; and Thomas Haines, district ranger for the Salem district.
Mark Twain National Forest contains 1.5 million acres and includes 29 counties and six ranger district offices. Building relationships and working together with cities, counties and others across the state is vital to the forest’s preservation, Whittekiend noted.
“The partnerships are going to help us do the things we need to do,” Whittekiend said.
The U.S. Forest Service’s stewardship contracting opportunities, which began in 2003, help restore the forest, improve wildlife and fish habitats, conduct road maintenance and more. The contracts work by exchanging the value of a good, such as timber, for having forest work completed.
“With stewardship contracting, we trade the value of the tree to do work on the forest,” Whittekiend said.
By forming these partnerships, jobs are created in local communities and forest maintenance is completed in a timely manner. Stewardship partnerships have been established with organizations such as the National Wild Turkey Foundation and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
In stewardship contracting, the trade value of the tree is used to provide direct work on the forest. Work may include road and trail maintenance, reducing fire hazards, brush hogging, planting trees and other ways of keeping the forest healthy.
By contracting services for the timber values, the contract can be awarded based on the best local value, Whittekiend noted.
Whittekiend gave an example of the Salem ranger district using the value of timber to complete road maintenance and forest thinning. Another example is using forest material as bio fuel for a project through the University of Missouri Extension.
The U.S. Forest Service would still continue its regular timber contracts, but the stewardship contracts would be offered for both small and large timber sales for a balancing effect, Whittekiend said.
Public meetings will be held in the near future to provide communities and local governments with additional information regarding stewardship contracting opportunities.
Next, MRPC Vice Chair Gary Brown and MRPC Assistant Director Tammy Snodgrass discussed their recent trip to Washington, D.C., to deliver the board’s 2012 federal priorities to legislators and to attend the National Association of Development Organization’s (NADO) Washington Policy Conference.
Snodgrass noted the NADO conference provided resources on how to best communicate with the Congressional legislators representing the Meramec Region.
During one session of the conference, representatives from every federal agency were represented, Snodgrass said.
Brown and Snodgrass were able to connect with every legislator and discuss the board’s top federal priorities for 2012.
Brown noted it was important for MRPC’s local cities and counties to keep communication flowing with the federal legislators’ local and district representatives.
“Remember to keep issues in a local perspective and keep to the point,” Brown said. “They (the legislators) receive about 200 million emails a year.”
In other business, the board:
Formed in 1969, MRPC is a voluntary council of governments serving Crawford, Dent, Gasconade, Maries, Osage, Phelps, Pulaski and Washington counties and their respective cities. A professional staff of 29, directed by the MRPC board, offers technical assistance and services, such as grant preparation and administration, housing assistance, transportation planning, environmental planning, ordinance codification, business loans and other services to member communities.
The MRPC board will meet at 7:30 p.m. May 10 at its office at 4 Industrial Drive in St. James. All meetings are open to the public.