Twenty Years of Missouri Natural Areas: Protecting the Genuine Article

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Published on: Mar. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 26, 2010

and to preserve the feeling of typical landscapes of primitive Missouri.

Jerry Vineyard, deputy state geologist with the Department of Natural Resources, chairs the current Missouri Natural Areas Committee: "Twenty years ago a statewide Natural Areas System was only a dream, now come true. Having it in place is like having a picture of what the Missouri landscape once was, and could become, to guide our stewardship of all public lands. The cooperation between agencies seems stronger than ever, ready to finish the job. Private landowners and organizations want to participate as well. We can take pride in passing on a system that has the best of both biology and geology for the enjoyment of generations to come."

The Missouri Natural Areas System guarantees a future for Missouri marshes, prairies, forests, glades, streams and a host of other natural communities and the landscapes they belong to.

Reflections on the Jacks Fork Natural Area

by Charles Putnam

When I think of the Jacks Fork Natural Area, I think about my kid upstairs under the covers and taking him to chase the smallmouth bass that hunt the bluff pools. I also think about how the Jacks Fork Natural Area conveys, through its breadth of scenery, wildness and diversity, the scale of time and forces that have fashioned Missouri.

That scale can be sensed in many dimensions. It's the depth of time absorbed in the black holes of the caverns as they reach into a time long before the first dinosaurs, the time of the first ancestors of the smallmouth. It's the uncountable creatures that have lived and left, suggested by blue harebells cliff-hanging beneath the blue skies of 10,000 Junes since the boreal forest left with the Pleistocene, the last Ice Age.

It's the unbounded wildness that brought these inhabitants, such as lacey Venus maidenhair ferns that survive the violence of 30-foot floods.

Star School Hill Prairie

by Karen Kramer

I experienced the loess hill prairie of Star School for the first time on a field trip as a Missouri Western State College student in 1990. I climbed up its near-vertical slope through an old pasture grown up in ash and hackberrys, then pushed by thick rough-leaved dogwood and sumac shrubs and finally - out of breath - reached the blufftop where the prairie opening appeared.

Although many of the prairie plants were new to me and in full bloom, I could not concentrate on the botanical aspect of this field trip until

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