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Columbia Bottom opens to public

Columbia Bottom Conservation Area is open, with recreational opportunities for bicyclists, day hikers and anglers.

The Conservation Department bought the 4,318-acre area at the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers from the City of St. Louis earlier this year. Completion of a parking lot at the area entrance in May allowed opening the area to public use.

Interpretive facilities and river access still are several years away, but the Conservation Department hopes to unveil a conceptual plan late this year to stimulate public comment and encourage partnerships with area organizations in developing Columbia Bottom.

Meanwhile, designated trails allow visitors to hike, bike and watch the area's abundant wildlife. A managed deer hunt will take place there this fall.

Open hours and other regulations are posted at the parking lot. Additional information about the area is available through the St. Louis Post Dispatch's Postline telephone information service, (314) 923-2323, ext. 2330.

To express your opinions about the area's development, write to Columbia Bottom Planning Team, 2360 Highway D, St. Charles, MO 63304.

Columbia Bottom Conservation Area is located just minutes from downtown St. Louis in northeastern St. Louis County. To visit the area, take I-270 east to Riverview Drive. Riverview turns into Columbia Bottom Road. Follow it north approximately 3 miles to the Columbia Bottom Conservation Area entrance.

Workshop to teach outdoor writing basics

Aspiring writers whose primary interest is the outdoors can improve their craft under the tutelage of nationally renowned outdoors writers at the Missouri Conservationist Outdoor Writing Workshop Sept. 13-18.

The third annual event will be held at the Conservation Department's new Presley Conservation Education Center on the Current River. The enrollment fee of $500 includes workshop tuition, five nights' room and board and access to all the Presley Center's facilities.

For more information, write to Missouri Conservationist Outdoor Writing Workshop, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, 65102-0180, or call (573) 751-4115, ext. 851.

Women's outdoor skills classes set for July 31-Aug. 2

Inexpensive one-day instruction in basic outdoor skills is the objective of a national "Women in the Outdoors" program, sponsored by the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF).

The NWTF launched the program last year in Poplar Bluff. This year it will expand to events serving 5,000 women in 13 states.

Classes in camping, hunting, fishing and other outdoor skills will be offered July 31 through Aug. 2 at the Cedar Creek Rod & Gun Club near Columbia.

For more information, contact NWTF Headquarters, (803) 637-3106, or Women in the Outdoors regional coordinator Becky Johnson, (316) 475 3571, E-mail <bjcnwtf@ wheatstate.com>.

Deal doubles size of west Missouri wetland area

The purchase of a 7,000-acre wetland area in Vernon County in April more than doubled the size of Four Rivers Conservation Area. The deal dramatically increases regional wetland habitat and recreational opportunities from birdwatching to duck hunting.

The new area consists of farmland along the Marmaton River. It is adjacent to Four Rivers Conservation Area and close to tens of thousands of acres of other public land. Most of the land will be restored to wetland conditions.

The resulting complex of public lands will provide habitat for hundreds of thousands of shorebirds, ducks, geese, songbirds, furbearers and a variety of other wildlife. It also will furnish areas for fish to live and spawn.

Apply now for youth, managed deer hunts

Hunters must have applications postmarked by Aug. 15 to be eligible for 50 managed deer hunts and two youth deer hunts.

Managed deer hunts allow hunters to pursue deer outside of regular hunting seasons and on areas where deer hunting usually is not allowed. About a third of the 20,000 hunters who apply for the hunts each year are selected by random drawing.

Applicants are notified in September of the outcome of the drawing. Those drawn pay a $3 administration fee and must buy deer permits before the hunt. Bonus Deer Hunting Permits cannot be used for special hunts.

Two youth-only managed deer hunts are available through a separate application process. A total of 120 youths aged 11 through 15 will be selected to hunt at Weldon Spring Conservation Area and August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area in St. Charles County Nov. 7 and 8.

Youth managed deer hunt applications also are due Aug. 15.

Information and applications for the youth-only hunt are available by calling the Busch Area office at (314) 441-4554 or Conservation Department headquarters at (573) 751-4115, ext 156.

Call Conservation Department headquarters or the nearest regional Conservation Department office for information about other managed hunts.

Nature centers come alive on Fridays

"Friday Night Live" and a birthday party highlight July programs at conservation nature centers.

A program titled "Crayfish and Other Crustacean Sensations" will run from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, July 10 at Springfield Conservation Nature Center. For details call (417) 888-4237.

"Crazy about Crawdads" will run from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday, July 17 at Burr Oak Woods Conservation Nature Center in Blue Springs. Call (816) 228 3766 for more information.

At Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center in Kirkwood, it's "Crusty Crawdads" from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Friday July 17. More information is available by calling (314) 301-1500.

Runge Conservation Nature Center will celebrate its fifth birthday with a "Welcome Outdoors" party starting with the 5K Wild Walk on nature center trails at 8 a.m July 11.

The party really gets under way at 2 p.m. with attractions that include food, live music, wild animals and a chance to spend "Runge Birthday Bucks" at the Old Time Trading Post. For more information, call (573) 526-5544.

Nominate Master Conservationists

The Conservation Department is seeking nominees for its Master Conservationist and Missouri Conservation Hall of Fame award programs.

Living or deceased citizen conservationists and employees of government agencies who made substantial and lasting contributions to the state's fish, forest or wildlife conservation efforts are eligible to be named Master Conservationists. Only deceased Missourians are eligible for the Conservation Hall of Fame.

Nominations should describe the candidate's accomplishments and include a brief biography. Attach confirming documentation if available.

Nomination forms are available from David Hurlbut, Conservation Department, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, 65102-0180.

Commission Cuts Conservation Budget

The Conservation Department is tightening its belt. Faced with a potential cash shortfall, the Conservation Commission approved a 1999 fiscal year budget of $130.8 million, which is 7.2 percent less than the 1998 fiscal year budget of $141 million.

Large financial obligations, including an unanticipated quickening in the construction schedule of Lost Valley Hatchery ($19.7 million), the Hancock refund ($11.4 million) and the purchase of land for Columbia Bottom Conservation Area ($9.1 million), have dug deeply into the agency's fund reserve and are forcing the cuts.

"This is short-term in nature" said Conservation Commission Chairman Ronald J. Stites of Kansas City.

"The budget should start turning around by the year 2000, and because we are just trimming programs, we will be able to gear back up again without undergoing the throes of restarting them."

Major cuts have been made in almost all categories. Much of the savings will come from not filling vacant positions, keeping vehicles longer and delaying the purchase of new equipment.

The new budget includes a 67.4 percent drop in equipment purchases and a 23.5 percent reduction in capital improvements, which includes land acquisition and major construction.

"This forces us to take a close look at all of our programs to see where we might make legitimate cuts in our budget," Stites said. "We think that is fiscally responsible."

Portrait of a deer poacher not a pretty picture

Who is the typical deer poacher? Several years ago the Conservation Department decided that answering this question might help conservation agents do their jobs better.

The following picture emerged from a survey of convicted poachers and background checks on their criminal records.

  • The average deer poacher was 28 years old.
  • Ninety-eight percent are male.
  • Nearly one-third are unemployed.
  • One-quarter are high-school dropouts.
  • One in five have criminal records that involve, murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, armed robbery, rape, drug violations or other felonies.
  • Four out of 10 are drinking alcoholic beverages when apprehended.

New book lists record deer

For the first time ever, Missouri has its own deer record book.

Missouri Show-Me Big Bucks Club Records of Whitetail Deer is a hard bound 8.5- by 11-inch volume with more than 300 black-and-white illustrations. In addition to 3,500-plus individual deer entries, the book's 348 pages cover the history of the whitetail in Missouri, the 30-year history of the Show-Me Big Bucks Club, the philosophy of trophy hunting, hunting ethics and other topics.

To order a copy, send $30 plus $5.95 shipping ($12.95 shipping for Canadian orders) to Missouri Show-Me Big Bucks Club, P.O. Box 9, Unionville, 63565-0009.

Grants help take learning outside

The Conservation Commission awarded more than $75,000 in grants last spring to help schools develop outdoor classrooms.

The grants, ranging from $300 to $5,000 per school, came from the Show Me Conservation Outdoor Classroom Grants Program. The grants are intended to encourage schools to improve learning with outdoor instruction.

Grants went to 21 of the 120 schools that applied. In addition to cash, successful applicants got help with their projects from conservation education consultants.

More information on the program is available from the Office of Environmental Education, Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, 65102-0180.

MDC has new web address

The Conservation Department's internet home page address has changed. The new address is www.mdc.mo.gov.

Sportsmen back young farmers' wildlife work

It's a partnership made in heaven-hunters and the Conservation Department teaming up to help future farmers learn how to blend smart farming and wildlife management.

Each year, the United Sportsmen's League of St. Louis and the Conservation Department select Future Farmers of America (FFA) chapters to receive grants of up to $500. This year, the Windsor, Union and Verona FFA chapters each received a $500 grant.

The money goes to projects that benefit wildlife. More important, the projects give young farmers a chance to learn first-hand what it takes to run a farm profitably in harmony with forest, fish and wildlife.

Some projects are conducted on school property or other public land, but the program encourages participating FFA chapters to work with private landowners.

This year's winning projects included:

  • Creating a one-mile nature walk and outdoor classroom in Verona;
  • Creating an outdoor classroom at Windsor Junior and Senior High School;
  • Providing wildlife food and habitat, planting trees, removing cedar trees to restore glade habitat and installing fish attractors at lakes in the Union area.

To learn how to apply for Wildlife Conservation Grants, write Education Programs Section, Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, 65102-0180 or call (573) 751-4115.

Fish hatchery more than half finished

It doesn't look like much yet, but the Conservation Department's new, state of-the-art warm-water fish hatchery near Warsaw is more than halfway complete.

The 18,000-square-foot hatchery building at Lost Valley Hatchery isn't under roof yet, but at this writing, the walls are up and work is proceeding on the superstructure that will support the roof.

More important, the floor is complete. A hatchery depends on an elaborate system of plumbing built into the concrete foundation, and this is largely ready for business.

The project is on schedule and expected to be complete in the fall of 1999.

Bass tournament to benefit spinal cord research

Fish in the Third Annual Spinal Cord Society Bass Tournament Aug. 8 and you will have more than fun. Not only will you have a chance at winning thousands of dollars in prize money, you'll also have the satisfaction of helping find more effective treatment and cures for spinal cord injuries.

The tournament will begin at 6:30 a.m. at Bucksaw Marina on Truman Lake and end at 3 p.m. A free barbecue and benefit auction will follow the weigh in.

Cosponsored by the Kansas City chapter and the national office of the Spinal Cord Society, the tournament offers cash prizes ranging from $2,000 for first to $150 for 10th place. The angler who catches the big bass of the day will receive $1,000 cash. Those who bring in the second- and third largest bass will net $500 each.

Registration costs $120 per boat and must be postmarked by Aug. 1. For more information call Mickey Powell at (816) 540-2691.

Advice for landowners: Farm the best; buffer the rest

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has launched a multi year effort known as the National Conservation Buffer Initiative to encourage landowners to find out more about the farming benefits of buffer strips.

Landowners who want to install buffers can get financial help under the initiative. One of the best ways is through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), which provides annual payments for 10 to 15 years in return for maintaining buffer strips. CRP and other incentive programs help landowners establish cover and wildlife habitat on erosion-prone land.

Several buffer practices even offer a 20 percent increase in bid rates. CRP sign-up is ongoing, can be approved quickly and doesn't require competitive bids.

Several other incentive programs also help landowners improve water quality, control erosion and improve wildlife habitat. Among these are the USDA Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP).

Examples of conservation practices that serve as buffers include filter strips, streamside forest buffers, contour buffer strips, field borders, windbreaks, herbaceous wind barriers and combined growing of crops and trees. Hedgerow plantings, grassed waterways and stream bank protection measures also can qualify.

Buffers are most effective when used as part of an overall land management plan.

Filter strips and forested stream buffers eventually cease to be effective if stream banks erode. An important consideration in planning buffers as part of the conservation system is their ability to be adjusted to improve or meet specific wildlife habitat needs.

Buffers lend diversity to the landscape. They provide food, nesting cover and shelter for many wildlife species. They also can serve as travel corridors that allow wildlife to move safely from one habitat area to another.

Selection of the right kind of cover is critical. Recommended plantings include trees, shrubs, native grasses, cool-season grasses, such as orchard grass, redtop or timothy, legumes, such as annual lespedeza or ladino clover, and a variety of native prairie forbs, such as coneflowers.

Other incentive programs also are available through several conservation agencies. The Conservation Department, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Soil and Water Conservation Service and the Farm Services Agency all have local offices that can provide information about conservation buffers. - Doug Wallace

Ask the Ombudsman

Q: Can I camp on conservation areas?

A: Camping is allowed at some conservation areas, but not at others. For rules of a particular area, check Missouri's Conservation Atlas or call the nearest Conservation Department regional office or the Ombudsman's office.

Camping normally is restricted to designated areas, but walk-in camping is permitted away from roadways on some larger conservation areas. Camping is limited to no more than 14 days in any 30-day period, and groups of more than 10 people need a special use permit from the area manager.

Camping facilities at conservation areas are minimal-often consisting of a mowed area, a safe water source, privies and parking. Many campers use conservation areas precisely because they are not developed, or to hunt or fish in remote areas.

State parks and private campgrounds offer more amenities. A recent study counted 278 privately owned campgrounds in Missouri offering 16,786 campsites. Government agencies provide an additional 121 campgrounds with 12,775 sites.

1998-99 deer regulations are sure to please hunters

Deer hunters are sure to like the changes in this year's deer hunting regulations. The January Extension of firearms deer season will be twice as long as last year-four days.

Like last year, the January Extension of firearms deer season will take place in Units 1-17, 20, 22, 23, 58 and 59. Anyone with an unfilled Any-Deer or Bonus Deer permit will be able to hunt antlerless deer in these units during the January season.

Missouri is returning to a lottery to allocate Any-Deer and Bonus Deer permits. Sales of deer hunting permits began July 1, with permit vendors statewide offering archery deer and turkey hunting permits and firearms or muzzleloader permits over the counter for antlered deer for any unit in the state.

You also can buy Any-Deer and Bonus Deer permits over-the-counter through Nov. 7 for units with open quotas. Units 26-30, 34, 36, 40, 45, 46, 50, 51 and 52 will have open quotas for Any-Deer Permits. However, these units will have a limited quota of First Bonus Permits, so these will be allotted by drawing. No Second Bonus Permits will be available in these units.

Some units will have limited quotas for Any-Deer Permits, First Bonus and Second Bonus permits. If you plan to hunt in these units, you must enter a drawing for those permits.

In other units, all available deer hunting permits are on sale over the counter through Nov. 7.

In units where supplies of certain permits are limited, you must buy a bucks only permit (or Any-Deer Permit, where bonus permits are limited) and apply for desired "quota" permits by Aug. 15.

Those who are drawn for Any-Deer Permits will receive stickers in the mail to convert previously purchased bucks-only permits for any-deer use.

Hunters who are drawn for Bonus Deer Permits will be notified to go to vendors and purchase the permits. Any-Deer and Bonus Deer permits will be on sale through Nov. 7. After that, only buck tags will be available.

This year, land holdings will not have to be contiguous to qualify the owner for landowner permits, as long as the property is located in a single deer management unit.

For example, a hunter who owns a 40-acre tract and two 20-acre tracts in the same unit is eligible to receive no-cost Landowner Any-Deer and Bonus Deer permits.

Full details of deer hunting regulations are found in the 1998 Fall Deer and Turkey Hunting Information Guide, available wherever hunting permits are sold. Don't wait too long, though. The time to apply for landowner and quota permits is running out.

January Extension expands opportunities and challenges

Where will you hunt during the January Extension?

Public land is scarce in northern Missouri, so you can expect crowds of deer hunters on conservation areas and other public land during the January Extension of the deer season.

Your odds of success are probably better on private land, where deer are numerous to the point where they require thinning.

Start scouting now for promising hunting spots on private land and approach landowners to obtain permission to hunt during the January Extension.

Don't wait until the last minute and, whatever you do, don't disgrace yourself and other hunters by road hunting or trespassing on private property.

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