Common questions for district ranger Thomas Haines

Searching for a topic for this month’s article, it was suggested I do one on some of the common questions we are asked. 

So here we go:

Q: “So, you work for the Forestry Service?”  

A: No, we work for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Forest Service. We do practice forestry, but Forest Service is the correct name.

Q: “So you folks are game wardens right?”

A: No. The State of Missouri is responsible for the management of all fish and wildlife within the state. To hunt and fish on the national forest lands, you do have to have all the license and permits required by the state of Missouri and be in compliance with their regulations.

Q: “What time do the gates open” or “What time is the park open?” 

A: Unlike some parks and campgrounds, the National Forest is open 24/7, unless the area is posted closed. Our designated campgrounds do have quiet hours though, so please be respectful of others at night.

Q: “Where can I camp on the forest?”

A: You can camp anywhere on the National Forest, unless it is posted as closed. This is referred to as dispersed camping. Of course you cannot block gates, roads, or drive off-road to set up your camp.  

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Q: “You work for the Conservation?”

A: No. Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) is a state agency that oversees many conservation projects around the state and is in charge of hunting and fishing regulation in Missouri.  

The USDA-Forest Service is a federal agency. USDA Forest Service manages 193 million acres of national forests and national grasslands across our nation. Mark Twain National Forest is one of those 193 units.

Q: “Do my kids need to wear a helmet and can they ride on their own ATV?”

A: If the rider/operator is under the age of 18, than yes, they do have to wear a helmet. If the rider/operator is under the age of 16, they have to be accompanied by and under the supervision of a parent or guardian.  

Q: “Do I need a firewood permit to collect firewood for my campfire?”  

A: No. For your campfire, you can collect all the dead-and-down firewood you want. In fact, we want to discourage you from bringing firewood from outside of the forest.  

Transporting wood from other areas is one of the ways insects and other diseases are spread to the forest.

(Thomas Haines is the district ranger for the Mark Twain National Forest, Salem Ranger District. He can be reached at 573-729-6656 or

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