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Mark Twain National Forest . . . Good Things For Our Neighbors to Know

ROLLA – For many people, owning a piece of property adjacent to the Mark Twain National Forest is the fulfillment of a dream. Residing next to a National Forest allows a homeowner to enjoy solitude, see abundant wildlife and view spectacular scenery daily. It is important for property owners to understand both the benefits and responsibilities of living next door to public lands.
National forests are working forests managed for multiple uses—including wildlife, timber, water quality, and recreation. Opportunities are offered for the public to participate in project planning on Forest Service land and to provide input into the Forest Service project decisions during a process called “scoping”. Listening to feedback from neighboring landowners is important to the Forest Service personnel who plan these projects.
Along with the many benefits of being a National Forest neighbor, there are also rules and regulations that need to be followed. Fences are the responsibility of the landowner, and it is also their responsibility to keep livestock off National Forest System land (unless operating under a Special Use Permit for grazing). It is highly recommended that a neighboring landowner has their property surveyed by a licensed land surveyor before constructing anything near their property boundaries. If someone accidentally constructs a fence or building on the Forest, it will have to be removed. This costly mistake can be avoided by knowing the exact location of property lines. This applies to timber harvesting as well. If a landowner decides to harvest timber, they should have their boundaries professionally verified well in advance of the harvest. Cutting timber across property lines on National Forest land can be a costly mistake.
When in doubt, check if you need a Special Use Permit
Many activities on Forest Service land require a Special Use Permit (SUP). Permits are necessary for any activity that involves potentially damaging or removing any natural resource.
Here are some examples of activities that will probably require a SUP to be done on Forest Service lands:
• Crossing Forest Service land in a motorized vehicle to get to private property (not served by a County or Forest Service Road);
• Placing a gate, fence, sign or any other construction or barrier;
• Crossing Forest Service land to bring in utilities (e.g., electricity, cable TV, phone-line, water lines);
• Hosting a large gathering of 75 or more people on National Forest lands;
• Harvesting or collecting forest products to sell (e.g., pine cones, mushrooms, plants, berries, herbs, rocks, minerals); Note: incidental gathering of Forest products like mushrooms and berries for personal consumption do not require a permit. Collection of ginseng is not allowed.
• Grazing of cattle or other livestock;
• Cutting and bailing of grass/hay;
• Occupying/camping on the forest beyond 14 days;
• Commercial filming operations;
• Special events like Road Rallies and cross country racing/runs;
• Gathering of fire wood; Note: if you are camping on the forest and the wood is for your camp fire, you do not need a permit.
• Operating a guiding operation for profit (e.g. leading horse trail rides, guided hunts, guided hikes, canoe rentals);
• Research.
This is not a complete list of all of the activities that require a SUP, so if you have a question, please call one of our offices.
National Forest recreation activities include camping, hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, horseback riding and much more. The public must get land-owners’ permission to cross private land to access National Forest land. The public has the right to recreate on national forest lands adjacent to private property but not on private land. Trees or fences marked with purple paint are signs of no trespassing.
Road systems within Mark Twain National Forest include state and federal highways, as well as county and township roads. Mark Twain National Forest also maintains some roads. These roads may serve as access for recreational use, hunting, fishing, fire control and other activities. Motor vehicle maps are available free at forest offices.
Some roads that access the national forest cross private land on easements acquired from private landowners. When Mark Twain National Forest acquires an easement across private property, the Forest regulates the use of the road. The public has the right to use the road unless the Forest has closed the road to public use.
Access by permit across the Mark Twain National Forest to private lands may be granted under some circumstances, if other access is not available. Contact your local Forest Ranger District Office for more information. Private uses of the national forest, such as private road rights-of-way and construction of public utilities, require special use permits. These permits are issued if the use is compatible with national forest purposes, and if it is in the public interest. Payment of an annual special use permit fee would also be required.
For more information regarding a land boundary question or SUP question, contact your local Forest Service Ranger District office (phone number can be found online at; or contact the Lands Program Manager, Janet Fraley at 573-341-7459.