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Mark Twain National Forest wants to leverage conservation groups’ efforts

The Mark Twain Forest Headquarters in Rolla
Jonathan Ahl
St. Louis Public Radio
The Mark Twain Forest headquarters in Rolla

The U.S. Forest Service is looking to better know where volunteer and conservation groups are that want to help the Mark Twain National Forest, and connect them with like-minded people who live in the St. Louis area.

The Missouri Outdoor Connections project will include an effort to survey the myriad of civic and conservation groups that represent thousands of volunteers who either already help with forest preservation or who would like to.

“This is the first step to understanding who cares about the lands and who wants to be a part of the conversation. Then we can begin to really build those relationships and a larger community,” said Allison Koopman, recreation planner for the U.S. Forest Service’s Eastern Region that includes the Mark Twain.

The project, called stewardship mapping, builds a database of environmental groups of all sizes. The effort will focus on southern and central Missouri, including the 1.5 million-acre Mark Twain National Forest and the St. Louis area.

“If you are in a group that cares about public lands, or nature in general, then please take a little bit of time to fill out the survey and share it with others you know that would be interested in participating,” said Mark Twain National Forest Supervisor Dawn Laybolt.

Laybolt said the process will identify, connect and leverage existing and potential partners, as well as create new opportunities for stewardship that will help protect the forest and the economic stability of the communities in the region.

“It's about relationship building, not inventory and mapping, but we need a starting place to really understand who wants to be a part of the conversation,” Koopman said.

Jonathan Ahl is the Newscast Editor and Rolla correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.