Vol. II, No. 4, Spring 1989

Public Land Preserves and Their Management Agencies

The following is a summary of information supplied by the United States Forest Service; Division of State Parks, the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism; the Missouri Department of Conservation; the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission; the National Park Service; the United States Army Corps of Engineers; and the Division of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

National Forests

By far the largest preserves in the Ozarks are the two giant National Forests --Mark Twain in Missouri and Ozark in Arkansas. Together they encompass some 2.5 million acres spreading across 47 counties in the two states. The Forest Service philosophy envisions utilization of diverse resources in the Forests -- recreation, scenic landscapes, clean air, stable soil, high quality water, habitat for wildlife, healthy trees for wood products -- all being in one way or another productive of jobs which help support local economies and rural lifestyles.

The National Forests generate revenue from minerals, timber, and recreational use. Twenty-five percent is returned to the counties in which the Forests are located for public school and public road use. Additional moneys go to the counties as payment in lieu of taxes (PILT). In 1933 the State of Missouri authorized the Forest Service to begin buying land for the first time, much of it wasteland overused by long-gone loggers and dirt-poor farmers.

Those purchases founded the Clark and Mark Twain National Forests (since combined into one, the present Mark Twain National Forest). All but 15,000 of the 1.5 million acres of the Mark Twain are located in the Ozarks.

In FY87, payments to the 29 Missouri counties in which Forest lands are located totaled $2,928,803 (25 percent of total revenue plus PILT). FY88 Mark Twain Forest expenditures were $11.8 million, while income was $8.5 million. Permanent employees number 226, with 132 more employed under the Senior Community Service Employment Program. The 284 Forest volunteers contributed services estimated to be worth $36,512 in 1988.

The Ozark National Forest in Arkansas, established in 1908 by Presidential Proclamation, covers 1.1 million acres in 18 counties. FY88 expenditures totaled over $12 million, while revenue was $4.4 million. Personnel included some 280 permanent and 50 seasonal employees.

National Parks

Five National Park units are located in the Missouri and Arkansas Ozarks: the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, the Buffalo National River, Wilson's Creek National Battlefield, Pea Ridge National Military Park and the George Washington Carver National Monument.

The Jacks Fork and the Current Rivers in Missouri, together with an enclosing land corridor, constitute the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. Authorized by Congress on August 27, 1964, it was the first wild and scenic rivers National Park. It includes 80,788 acres of land (61,374 of them federally owned) and 134 miles of managed river. Budgets for each of the last two fiscal years have been more than $2.8 million, of which some 82 percent went to the 72 permanent and approximately 70 seasonal employees. In the 25 years of its existence, the Riverways has become increasingly a recreational park. Headquarters is at Van Buren, Carter County, Missouri.

The Buffalo National River in Arkansas was designated by Congress in 1972 to encompass some 95,000 acres with 132 miles of managed river. Budgets were $1.6 million in FY88 and $1.7 million in FY89. Buffalo has 43 permanent and 30 seasonal employees. Headquarters is at Harrison, Boone County, Arkansas.

Two National Battlefields commemorate Civil War sites: Wilson's Creek National Battlefield (1960) and Pea Ridge National Military Park (1956). The 1749 acre Wilson's Creek Battlefield, located near Springfield, Greene County, Missouri, had an FY88 budget of $462,300, with fourteen permanent and nine seasonal employees. Pea Ridge Park, near Rogers in Benton County, Arkansas, has 4300 acres and, in FY88, a budget of $321,400. Eleven permanent employees staff the park. Both Wilson's Creek and Pea Ridge operations are assisted by many volunteers.


The George Washington Carver National Monument is at the site of the birth place and boyhood home of the famous educator, botanist, and agronomist. It is located south of Joplin, in Newton County, Missouri. The budget for the 210 acre Monument was almost $500,000 in both FY88 and FY89. Twelve permanent and eight seasonal employees operate and maintain the facility.

Missouri State Parks

The Missouri Ozarks has some 36 state parks and historic sites in 27 counties, embracing 68,000 acres. They employ 171 permanent and 361 seasonal employees. FY88 operating and capital improvements expenditures were $10.2 million. A 1982 state bond issue and a 1984 parks, soil, and water conservation sales tax has financed the renovation, improvement, and expansion of these state preserves. The Missouri system is administered by the Division of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation of the Department of Natural Resources.

Arkansas State Parks

The Arkansas Ozarks has eleven state parks in ten counties totaling more than 16,000 acres. The State Parks Division of the Department of Parks and Tourism spent some $4.2 million in capital improvements during 1987-88 as part of a six-year acquisition and development schedule. The Ozark Folk Center, located at Mountain View, Stone County, is a unique cultural park featuring music and traditional crafts of the locale.

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

Established in 1944, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission was given the responsibility of management, restoration, conservation and regulation of birds, fish, game, and wildlife resources of the state. Areas of responsibility include hatcheries, sanctuaries, refuges, and reservations. The Commission oversees 41 different Ozarks areas containing over 82,951 acres in 16 counties.

Missouri Department of Conservation

The creation of the Missouri Conservation Commission in 1937 by constitutional amendment was indicative of citizens' desire to have the state's legendary fish, wildlife, and forestry resources managed professionally. In the ensuing half-century the resulting Department of Conservation has greatly increased the number and extent of public land preserves in the Missouri Ozarks.

Today the Department manages some 333 different Ozarks sites varying in size from a one-acre river access to a 13,000 acre state forest. Management units include forestry, fisheries, wildlife protection, natural history, planning, public affairs, and conservation education. The principal sources of income for the Department of Conservation are receipts from the sale of hunting and fishing permits and, since 1977, a one-eighth of one percent sales tax (not to be confused with the Parks and Soil and Water Conservation tax).

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Although the Corps of Engineers is a branch of the regular U.S. Army, with military construction responsibilities in time of war, the Corps in peacetime is the nation's primary agency for planning, building, and operating projects for flood control, navigation, and water conservation. Many of the Corps dams and reservoirs in the Ozarks were constructed primarily for downstream flood control, especially outside the region; but they were planned as well to have extra storage capacity for multiple purpose use: conservation of water for municipal and industrial uses, water quality control, navigation, irrigation, hydroelectric power, recreation, and conservation and enhancement of fish and wildlife values.

The Corps has created more than 3000 miles of lake shore line in the Ozarks in 14 projects. The shoreline easement maintained by the Corps constitutes a unique kind of a lakeshore preserve at all its reservoirs. Construction of Corps projects in the Ozarks prompted the creation of many new state land preserves around the lakes to support and enhance scenic, wildlife, and recreation values. Estimated cost of Corps projects in the Ozarks by 1984 totaled more than $991 million; the estimated value of prevented flood damage was $285 million. Twenty-six Ozarks counties in Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma have Corps reservoirs within their boundaries covering in excess of 321,650 acres of water at full conservation pool.

Compiled by Russ Runge and Steve Richardson
The preceding summary was researched and compiled by Russell Runge, Graduate Assistant to the Travel and Tourism Program and to OzarksWatch.


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