The Treasure Hunters

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Published on: Sep. 2, 1995

Last revision: Oct. 20, 2010

but one of the 24 inventory projects was co- funded by another resource agency or organization. Notable among these cooperators were the U.S. Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy, and the Land Reclamation Commission.

The inventory program also benefitted from several earlier inventories conducted by the L-A-D Foundation and by graduate students at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

But the most important cooperators in the inventory project were the private landowners of Missouri. Almost without exception, landowners graciously allowed biologists access to their land. They also frequently provided valuable information about sites, leads on additional sites and insight into past management of areas. Without their cooperation the inventory would not have been possible, and without their input it would have been substantially less than it was.

The wealth of information collected by the inventory is being used in a variety of ways. As a starting point, inventory data are entered into the Natural Heritage Database maintained by the Conservation Department. This computer database provides the foundation for efforts to protect the endangered natural resources of the state.

Several of the most significant inventory sites have been purchased from willing sellers by the Conservation Department or The Nature Conservancy. Sites already in public ownership have received management to protect or enhance the features.

Many sites on private lands have also received some degree of protection through voluntary agreements with landowners, or simply by making the owners aware of the feature. When informed that their land supports something rare or out of the ordinary, most landowners feel pride in that ownership and readily invite management recommendations to protect the site.

Because most sites with special features will remain in private ownership, working with landowners holds the greatest potential for safeguarding Missouri's natural heritage. Inventory information also allows local, state and federal officials to make informed decisions when developments are proposed near natural feature sites, so adverse impacts are avoided or reduced.

One unanticipated and often overlooked result of the inventory is that some species, formerly considered threatened, turned out to be relatively common. Purple beard-tongue and Trelease's larkspur were abundant on limestone glades in the southwest region of the state. Two birds that occupy grasslands in northern and western Missouri, the bobolink and sedge wren, were likewise found to be more abundant than previously thought. These species were then "delisted," allowing limited resources and monies to be more narrowly focused on features that truly need attention.

Although inventories of a more limited nature will continue, the massive treasure hunt has been completed, and the hunters find themselves looking back on their inventory projects as the highlights of their careers. They not only found the most spectacular and threatened jewels of Missouri's landscape, they performed the first step in the long process of securing their future

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