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A gift that makes a difference

What better way to commemorate a loved one's passion for nature than by putting their name on a brick at the finest conservation education facility ever built?

The Conservation Heritage Foundation is accepting donations from individuals and corporations to help make the planned Discovery Center in downtown Kansas City a reality. The facility, to be located on the banks of Brush Creek in Kauffman Legacy Park, will include an environmentally friendly building, gardens, wetlands and walkways and will offer the most extensive information and education services ever provided to urban residents. A contribution of $100 or more qualifies the giver to have a commemorative brick, with optional inscription. Commemorative trees are available for $500.

To make a contribution:

  • Specify whether you want a memorial tree or brick.
  • Specify an inscription of up to three lines, with up to 18 letters, numbers and spaces in each line.
  • Include your name and address.
  • Send a check or money order payable to the Conservation Heritage Foundation or provide your American Express, Visa or Master Card number, expiration date and signature.
  • Businesses should provide purchase orders, if applicable.

Duck hunters log on to web site

Where are the ducks? How many hunters are showing up at wetland areas that hold drawings for blinds? The waterfowl hunting information page at the Conservation Department's web site <http://www.mdc.mo.gov/hunt/> has the answers.

You also can find information about the number of ducks and geese taken at each of the 13 conservation areas that hold drawings for hunting spots and learn where hunter turnout was light and blinds went begging. Waterfowl concentrations, weather trends and other factors that affect hunters' prospects for success also are covered.

Bills would help wildlife

Bills introduced in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives in October could funnel $11 million annually into Missouri parks, recreation, conservation education and wildlife programs without any new taxes. The bills have bipartisan support in Congress.

House Bill H.R. 4717 is called the Conservation and Reinvestment Act of 1998 (CRA). The bill's counterpart in the Senate is S.B. 2566. Differences between the two bills must be resolved by a conference committee before the proposal can become law.

CRA benefits for Missouri could include funding for community wildlife viewing facilities, nature study sites, urban green space, restoration and management of natural areas and wildlife species with special needs, hiking and interpretive trails and conservation education. Administrative expenditures would be limited to 4 percent.

House cosponsors of the CRA include U.S. Rep. Karen McCarthy (D Kansas City) and Roy Blunt (R-Springfield). Sen. Kit Bond co-sponsored the Senate version. Non-governmental organizations supporting the CRA include Bass Pro Shops, the Missouri Parks and Recreation Association and the Southern Governors' Association.

Further information about the CRA is available by calling the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies at (202) 624-7890. E-mail inquiries can be sent to <teaming@sso.org>.

ESA TURNS 25

Twenty-five years ago this month, Congress passed the Endangered Species Act of 1973, affirming the importance of maintaining a diversity of species. An estimated 500 species went extinct in the United States in the two centuries preceding passage of the ESA. Since the act's passage, less than 1 percent of the 1,650 species of plants and animals it protects have become extinct.

Watch "News & Almanac" for information about events planned throughout 1999 to commemorate progress achieved through the ESA.

Missouri youths take outdoor skills international

Two young Missourians spread the Show-Me State's outdoor fame internationally this year. Nick

Muckerman, 14, of Chesterfield won the junior division of the 13th Annual International Youth Hunter Education Challenge in New Mexico last July.

In August, Tecumseh resident Aaron Taylor went with the first United States youth team to compete in the World Flycasting Championships in Wales. Taylor, 17, and his five teammates upset the heavily favored British and Welsh teams to take second place in the competition.

The gift of safety

If someone in your family receives a rifle, shotgun or bow as a holiday gift, don't forget to follow up with the most important accessory of all: safety training. Hunter education classes are available year-round. Call the nearest Conservation Department office for information about classes in your area.

Federal grants Boosts Four Rivers Project

Ducks Unlimited has secured a grant of $973,423 under the North American Wetland Conservation Act (NAWCA) to help create Missouri's largest state-owned wetland area.

The grant contributes to the purchase of a 6,975-acre tract of flood damaged farm land in west-central Missouri. The tract bridges a gap between two existing tracts of Four Rivers

Conservation Area, creating a single area of nearly 14,000 acres.

Ducks Unlimited provided $100,000 of its own funds for the purchase. The Conservation Department contributed $1,876,190, and another $4,323,438 came from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Additional financial backing came from the Nature Conservancy, the Missouri Prairie Foundation, Gator Pump Inc. of Brownwood, Texas, and Agri Drain Corp. of Adair, Iowa.

The area will be managed primarily for waterfowl. One day last December the area held 124,600 ducks and geese. Fish, songbirds, furbearers, deer and turkey also will benefit from the project. The area also is home to two federally endangered species and 24 species listed as rare or endangered in Missouri.

Long-term plans for Four Rivers CA include creating 3,000 acres of semi permanent marsh, 2,650 acres of bottomland hardwood forest, 300 acres of wet prairie and 324 acres of upland prairie. Recreational activities will include wildlife viewing, car tours, canoeing, hunting, fishing, hiking, field trials, primitive camping and trapping.

Nationally, NAWCA provided $16,821,439 in funding for 19 projects in the United States. With state matching money, the benefit to wetlands is $127,372,760 on 281,624 acres.

Hunting Snow Geese

Want a hunting adventure that can put a lot of meat in your freezer?

Try hunting snow geese.

Missouri's large wetland areas are base for hundreds of thousands of snow geese each winter. The hunting season lasts 106 days; the daily limit is 20 and there is no possession limit.

Hunters drive back roads around waterfowl refuges to find crop fields where the big birds are gathering. Then they knock on doors to ask landowners' permission to hunt.

Snow geese return to water between 9 and 11 a.m. and loaf.

That's when you put out decoys-lots of decoys. It takes 400 to 1,500 to make an acceptable spread.

Anything white that moves in a breeze will attract geese. Use specially made wind socks or anchor white plastic bags or rags to corn stubble or weigh them down with metal washers.

Snows return to feeding areas in mid- to late afternoon. By then you should be flat on your back in the middle of your decoy spread, camouflaged with white cloth or corn stalks.

Large flocks of snow geese will come in without prompting. Calling sometimes helps bring in small groups. Standard, 23/4 -inch shells loaded with No. 1 or 2 steel shot will bring down geese inside 40 yards.

You can leave your spread out overnight and hunt the following morning. Then pull up stakes. Snow geese invariably abandon a field after finding hunters there twice.

A lot of work? Yes, but the experience of having a swirling cloud of thousands of calling geese descend on you is indescribable and addictive.

Snow goose meat makes summer sausage that is indistinguishable from venison. Another easy recipe is to cut breast meat into strips and grill it, basting with garlic butter. Or marinate the strips in teriyaki sauce, lime juice and garlic and broil in the oven.

Conservation classic turns 50

Fifty years ago this month, the University of Wisconsin Press published

A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold. The collection of short essays distilled in eloquent prose the bedrock principles of the modern conservation movement.

Leopold articulated the philosophical underpinnings of virtually every phase of today's environmental policy. Years before saving endangered species became a national priority, Leopold wrote, "To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering."

No one can consider themselves well versed in conservation and environmental ideas unless they have a copy of A Sand County Almanac on their book shelf. Paperback copies are available for $6, including shipping and handling, from the Izaak Walton League of America, 707 Conservation Lane, Gaithersburg, MD 20878. Or call toll-free (800) 453-5463, ext. 212.

Home for the holidays? Visit a nature center

Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center (CNC) in Kirkwood has special family holiday programs. Topics include Conservation Success Stories Dec. 28, Fascinating Birds on Dec. 29 and Stupendous Streams on Dec. 30. The open-house type programs run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and include movies, crafts, games and hands-on fun. Reservations are not required. For more information, call (314) 301-1500.

December programs at Burr Oak Woods CNC in Blue Springs include a nighttime owl prowl for youngsters Dec. 11, holiday crafts for kids

Dec. 12 and a wreath-making class for adults Dec. 18. Registration is required for the craft activities. To register or learn further program details, call (816) 228-3766.

At Runge CNC in Jefferson City, storytellers will offer Native American legends for children and "Voices of Country Women" for adults Dec. 29. On Dec. 30, Runge will present a program about three small towns on the Missouri River. Runge will finish its holiday programs with a live otter program Dec. 30. For reservations to attend holiday programs at Runge CNC, call (573) 526-5544.

Springfield CNC will offer papermaking instruction for teens Dec. 9, holiday crafts for kids Dec. 12 and an adult papermaking class Dec. 13. Call (417) 888-4237 to register for these activities or learn about other holiday season programs.

Contact Director Conley

Conservation Department Director Jerry Conley would like to hear your comments and suggestions concerning conservation programs or issues, and you can reach him on the Conservation on Call comment line, (573) 751 4115 extension 671.

The comment line is available to record your questions and comments from 8 a.m. through 5 p.m. weekdays. Conley responds to comment line calls on his weekly radio program, "Conservation on Call." If you don't live in an area where the program is broadcast you will receive a call or letter in response to your message.

If you prefer written to phone messages, send them via E-mail to <coc@mdc.mo.gov> or by regular mail to Conservation on Call, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180.

Add permits to your shopping list

Stumped for gift ideas for your favorite outdoors person? Finding the perfect gift can be as simple as stopping at the sporting goods department of a discount store. 1999 hunting and fishing permits are on sale now. Hunting, fishing and trapping permits cost less than you might spend on a tie or a bottle of perfume.

Deer poachers shoot selves in foot

Sometimes it takes weeks or months of investigation to make a wildlife law enforcement case. Other times, it falls in your lap.

When Chariton County Conservation Agent Clay Creech paused on his front porch after a late-night patrol last summer, he heard a vehicle coming down the blacktop road. He watched in amazement as the vehicle's three occupants spotlighted a deer, shot it and drove on. As Creech scrambled into his vehicle to give chase, the trio killed another deer.

It turned out the men had killed four deer within a mile of Creech's home and left them lying in the fields. Aside from branding them as the worst sort of poachers, the crime resulted in a total of 16 charges and over $3,300 in fines and court costs.

Fine tuning goose regulations

Hunters may be puzzled by apparent tinkering with regulations on Canada geese. These changes make sense when you know that Missouri has four separate Canada goose populations that look alike. These distinct populations differ drastically in their ability to sustain harvest.

One group is the giant Canada geese that live in Missouri and the rest of the Midwest year-round. Another is the Mississippi Valley Population (MVP) which fly north to nest in southern Hudson Bay and return south for the winter. The third group is the Eastern Prairie Population (EPP), which nest in the area around west Hudson Bay. The fourth flock is the Tallgrass Prairie Population (TGPP) that migrate to near the Arctic Circle to nest and migrate to Missouri early in the fall.

Breeding populations of giants and TGPP were high and production was good in 1998; however, EPP numbers dropped by about 100,000. Giant and TGPP geese are plentiful enough to sustain a good harvest. The challenge for waterfowl managers was to allow continued hunting of these birds while reducing the harvest of EPP and MVP geese.

To achieve this goal, they examined data gathered from Canada goose leg bands recovered by hunters over the years. The data reveals when geese from each population usually are found in different parts of the state.

Waterfowl managers discovered that EPP geese, which used to be most plentiful in the Schell-Osage and Swan Lake waterfowl hunting zones, now are found throughout much of Missouri. They also discovered that EPP geese arrive in Missouri later than giant Canada geese from other states and TGPP Canadas.

To take advantage of this fact, they increased the number of days when Canada geese may be hunted in October and November and reduced the number of legal hunting days in December.

"Waterfowlers have a long history of commitment to good conservation policies," says Conservation Department Wildlife Research Biologist Dale Humburg. "It's frustrating to be in a blind in December, when Canada geese are thick and not be able to shoot them, but I know goose hunters will be willing to pass those shots if they understand the reason for the season and bag limit changes."

Cockfighting ban doesn't affect hunting, fishing or trapping

Hunters, trappers and anglers have nothing to fear from the ban on cockfighting and bear baiting approved by Missouri voters in November. The new law, which appeared on ballots as Proposition A, exempts activities regulated by the Conservation Commission from its provisions. The Conservation Department has constitutional authority to regulate hunting, fishing, trapping, field trials and other wildlife-related activities, and these remain legal in Missouri.

"If it was allowed under the Wildlife Code of Missouri before the vote on the cockfighting initiative, it's still allowed," says Conservation Department Director Jerry Conley. "Nothing has changed."

The flood that wasn't

On Oct. 5 the National Weather Service predicted a Missouri River flood crest of 35.9 feet at Jefferson City following torrential rains. The next day, the Weather Service reduced its crest prediction to 32.5 feet. On Oct. 7, the river crested at 29.55 feet. The Great Flood of 1998 went down in history as the flood that wasn't.

Where did all the water go? Gordon Farabee, long-time river management expert for the Conservation Department, thought he knew. To test his hypothesis, he flew over the river from the mouth of the Osage River to Glasgow on Oct. 7. He found the water right where he expected it.

Smokey Waters Conservation Area, almost 1,000 acres of low-lying land at the Osage/Missouri river delta, was about half covered with a sheet of chocolate brown water. At Overton Bottoms, where I-70 crosses the river near Rocheport, much of the 4,980 acres of land owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was under water. The picture was similar up and down the river. Thousands of acres of land that was kept dry by levees before the Great Flood of 1993 now held several inches to several feet of water.

The great flood that wasn't is a legacy of heartbreak and foresight. The deluges of 1993 and 1995 destroyed dozens of levees and damaged thousands of acres of farm land so badly that reclamation was uneconomical.

The Conservation Department and federal agencies stepped in to help owners of damaged land get out from under crushing financial losses. Programs ranging from cash conservation incentives to buyouts allowed the Conservation Department to give landowners relief while setting aside areas for fish and wildlife habitat and public recreation. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service bought riverside tracts to form the nucleus of Big Muddy National Wildlife Refuge. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers bought other flood-prone acreage as "mitigation" lands to replace wetlands lost to channelization and other Corps activity.

Conservation Department riverland purchases total 6,256 acres. Purchases for Big Muddy NWR total 2,896 acres so far, and the Corps of Engineers has set aside 7,338 acres of mitigation land along Missouri's stretch of Missouri River. The benefits to fish, wildlife and associated outdoor recreation are obvious. Less obvious-until Oct. 8-were the flood control benefits.

"Having more than 16,000 extra acres for the river to spread out in is a tremendous asset," says Farabee. "It's difficult to calculate exactly how many acre-feet of water these areas will hold at a given river stage. But it is, unquestionably, a huge amount. Take a moment to remember how close the water came to the tops of levees in October; then imagine that 10,000 or 20,000 acre feet of additional water had been forced down the river at the same time. If you want to know what that extra flood-holding capacity is worth, ask airport operators, business owners, farmers and homeowners behind the remaining levees."

Geese can be troublesome guests

Giant Canada geese, which live in Missouri year-round, wear out their welcome when they damage lawns or become aggressive enough to intimidate human neighbors. By that time, however, it can be difficult to get rid of the 10-pound-plus birds, which are protected under federal law. It's easier to avoid actions that encourage the birds to hang around.

Reducing manicured lawn and letting grass grow tall discourages geese from using an area. Adding trees and shrubs to your land or enclosing it in a 3-foot high fence helps, too.

Remove nesting tubs to make ponds less hospitable. Flashy plastic tape or dogs specially trained to harass geese also help.

Hunting is another solution, where practical and legal. Geese quickly abandon areas where they are hunted, and harvesting part of the goose population each year prevents the problem from getting worse.

When all else fails, more drastic measures may be needed. These actions require special permits. Contact the Conservation Department, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Guide to guides available on-line

Computer-equipped hunters, anglers and boaters can visit <http://www.deepozarks.com> for information about hunting and fishing guides, canoe liveries and other outfitters all over the state. Clicking on the lake, stream or region that interests you calls up a listing of guides and outfitters, complete with services offered and contact information.

Habitat Hints

You probably have winterized your car, but have you done the same for your pond? Winter weather can cause fish kills, especially in shallow ponds.

Fish need oxygen supplied by plants. Sunlight can penetrate clear ice, keeping plants alive.

But snow excludes light, causing plants to die.

To prevent this, sweep snow from areas 10 feet square scattered around the ponds. Be careful! Make sure the ice is at least 4 inches thick, and always have someone standing by to help if needed.

You can lessen the chances of fish kills by keeping fertilizer out of the water and keeping livestock out of the watershed.

For more information about winter pond management, write to Aquaguide, Fisheries Division, Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180.

Citizens huddle with otter experts

A committee of citizens and conservation professionals have drawn a course of action for the Conservation Department to follow in assessing the impact of river otters on Ozark fish populations.

The panel, formed when anglers reported declines in fish populations, wants to continue research into otter foods and their effect on fish. They also voted to stay involved in the issue.

Conservation Department researchers will continue to investigate the relationship between otters and fish populations. The committee plans to assess accumulating data further before holding more meetings.

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