Vandals strike National Forest
Officials with the United States National Forest Service are requesting the public's help in identifying and reporting individuals who are vandalizing the Mark Twain National Forest in the Barry County area.
"There has been a combination of vandalism in the forest," said Jenny Farenbaugh, a ranger with the Ava/Cassville/Willow Springs District. "We're seeing signs pulled down or shot, timber being cut and illegally removed, illegal ATV use on private and public use lands, fences being cut and trash being dumped.
"All of these are very expensive in the face of our dwindling budget," Farenbaugh continued. "It takes a lot of money to repair, replace or have items made for us, as well as taking time from the rangers' duties of spending time with the public. We work hard all winter long to make sure things are ready for the spring season, so people can enjoy the beautiful Ozarks recreation areas."
Farenbaugh said vandals are cutting down cedar trees, popular for both firewood and building.
"They will cut down a cluster of trees and leave parts behind when they remove the tree from forestry lands," she said. "That is illegal in its own right."
Farenbaugh said another big concern is the amount of illegal dumping taking place on forest lands.
"This is primarily taking place in Barry and Stone counties," Farenbaugh said, "although we have seen a lot of different types of vandalism across the district."
According to Farenbaugh, individuals are cutting along forestry fences adjoining private land to access areas via ATV and other motorized vehicles.
"We ask that everyone respect private landowner's properties and public land use policies, including restriction on the operations of ATVs," Farenbaugh said.
Mark Twain National Forest is comprised of 1.5 million acres in Missouri, covering 29 counties, including Barry, Christian, Douglas, Howell, Ozark, Stone and Taney counties.
"These lands are for everyone's enjoyment," said Farenbaugh. "We ask for the public's assistance in reporting individuals who are vandalizing or causing deliberate damage to any forestry department property."
To report damage or vandals, call the U.S. Forest Service law enforcement division at 417-683-4428 or the Barry County Sheriff's Office at 847-5665.