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Forest community restoration planned at Peck Ranch

When the Conservation Department buys land, it also inherits the consequences of the area's past management. This is especially true of forest land, where decisions made 100 years ago still influence the condition of the forest today.

The land that is now Peck Ranch Conservation Area in Carter County was logged extensively from 1880 to 1920. This caused a shift in tree species to black oaks and scarlet oaks, which are susceptible to a condition known as "oak decline." Conservation practices and fire protection beginning in the 1930s and 1940s resulted in the mature scarlet and black oak forest that exists there today.

At its May meeting, the Conservation Commission approved a plant community restoration plan for 629 of Peck Ranch's 23,048 acres. The plan will return what is now predominantly scarlet and black oak forest to its original mix of shortleaf pine, little bluestem grass and other plants that existed there before 1880. This will be accomplished by harvesting the dead and dying black and scarlet oaks.

Areas where white oak and post oak dominate will be lightly harvested or not harvested at all. Small clearcuts will allow natural regeneration of healthy forest where declining oaks now stand. In all, about three million board feet of dead and dying timber will be salvaged to make room for new plantings that will eventually mature into a healthy shortleaf pine-white oak forest, like the one shown at left, which was the dominant presettlement forest community in the southeast Ozarks.

In planning the project, fisheries, forestry, and wildlife managers worked together to protect unique natural features and water quality. Buffers of undisturbed forest will be left around ponds and cave openings and along stream corridors. Loggers will be required to follow best management practices.

The program will restore the pine-bluestem savanna community that once existed on parts of Peck Ranch. The resulting species mix will be about 20 to 30 percent each of shortleaf pine, white and post oak, black and scarlet oak and smaller amounts of hickory, black gum, sassafras, other oaks and dogwood. This will increase the variety of wildlife habitats at Peck Ranch. Greater species variety will result in a healthier forest with a lower risk of loss from outbreaks of gypsy moth and oak decline.

Happy trails to you

Get out and enjoy nature with "Conservation Trails, A Guide to Missouri Department of Conservation Hiking Trails" from the Conservation Department's Nature Shop.

The spiral-bound, soft-cover book features 86 trails on 40 conservation areas. Trails described range from 0.2 mile to 18 miles, and from level, paved paths to difficult, rugged natural-surface trails.

To order, send $4 plus $2 shipping and handling to Nature Shop, Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180. Missouri residents should add 25 cents sales tax.

Take a hike! (with Hostelling International)

Hostelling International will sponsor a guided trek on the Ozark Trail Oct. 9 through 16. Cost is $175 for a full week or $100 for half a week, with half the proceeds going to trail maintenance. For details, call (314) 644-4660, or visit them on the Internet.

Wild Art Coming to St. Louis

Some of the finest artists in the country will be driving St. Louis wild Oct. 30 and 31 at the annual Gateway Wildlife Art Show at the Doubletree Hotel in Chesterfield.

Thirty artists will display their paintings, pottery, sculpture and woodcarvings. Two-time Federal Duck Stamp Competition winner Neal Anderson and Missouri Duck Stamp and Trout Stamp artists Eileen Melton and Chuck Witcher will display their latest work. So will Missouri Ducks Unlimited Sponsor Print artist Harold Roe and western and wildlife artist R. Scott and world-renowned wildlife artist Heiner Hertling.

The show will be open from 10:30 a.m. until 8 p.m. Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Proceeds from ticket and art sales will benefit the World Bird Sanctuary of St. Louis.

For more information, visit the Gateway Wildlife Art Show web site, or call (573) 498-3479.

Zebra mussel muscles in on Meramec River

News that Missourians have been expecting and dreading finally arrived Aug. 19 with the discovery of a zebra mussel in a tributary of the Mississippi River.

Chris Barnhart, an associate professor at Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield, reported finding an adult zebra mussel in the Meramec River near the I-55 bridge south of St. Louis.

The zebra mussel is native to Eurasia. The species entered North America in the mid 1980s in ballast water carried by oceangoing vessels that came up the St. Lawrence Seaway. The exotic mussels quickly spread throughout the lower Great Lakes and into the Mississippi River system. They cause millions of dollars of property damage each year because of their enormous reproductive capacity and habit of attaching to any solid surface underwater. They plug city water supply pipes and the water intakes on boat motors. They also have overwhelmed native mussel species and caused other ecosystem changes.

Fisheries biologists hoped that swift, muddy water would prevent zebra mussels from moving up the Missouri River to the state's interior. But earlier this year one was found far up the Missouri River in Iowa, and now it appears that they will be able to colonize tributaries, too.

"This is a very sad, discouraging report," said the Conservation Department's Fisheries Division administrator, Norm Stucky. "I guess we knew it was inevitable, but we always hope for the best."

Batty behavior lands men in jail

Wanton destruction of harmless wildlife landed two Cedar County men in jail earlier this year.

The two, both 18 years old, got 30-day sentences after killing gray bats--an endangered species--last April in El Dorado Springs.

Conservation Agent Quentin Walsh and a city police officer found live bats that had been released in one suspect's apartment. They also found dead bats and parts of bats at the apartment and the cave.

Habitat Hints

OLD FARM FIELDS, abandoned and allowed to regenerate naturally, undergo changes that slowly reduce their habitat value. Active management is needed to keep fields attractive to songbirds, quail, rabbits and other wildlife.

Fields as small a san acre have potential for wildlife management. Even smaller areas can be valuable to wildlife when located within large tracts of cropland.

Old fields provide excellent nesting and brood-rearing areas for turkeys, quail, meadowlarks, sparrows, and other grassland birds. When disturbed by discing or burning, old fields also can produce ragweed, foxtail and other annual weeds whose seeds are high-energy food for wildlife. Mixed with a small amount of woody vegetation, they also provide shelter from winter cold and cover in which to escape predators.

Periodically discing strips of old fields, burning, mowing, overseeding with legumes or interseeding with a not-till seed drill serve to renovate old fields that are losing their productivity.

To learn how to apply these techniques on your land, contact the nearest Conservation Department office and make an appointment for a visit from a wildlife management biologist. Chapter 6 of the Conservation Department publication "Wildlife Management for Missouri Landowners" deals with old field management. To receive a copy, write to Missouri Department of Conservation, Wildlife Division, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180.

Wildlife organization seeks "higher ground"

The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) says voluntary property buyouts are among the most important tools for restoring fish and wildlife habitat along America's great rivers and returning floodplains to their natural functions.

A NWF report, titled "Higher Ground," points to the success of state and federal buyout programs, which have helped approximately 20,000 home and business owners in floodplains nationwide move to safer areas.

The report identifies 31,574 properties in 300 communities as prime candidates for voluntary buyouts. These communities account for less than 1 percent of properties enrolled in the National Flood Insurance Program, yet they received 49.8 percent ($1.3 billion) of all NFIP repetitive loss payments and 20 percent of all NFIP lost payments ($6.4 billion) nationwide.

Missouri led the nation in voluntary buyouts of flood-prone property following the Great Flood of 1993, taking more than 5,000 structures in floodplains out of private ownership. Gov. Mel Carnahan created a task force that reported, "in the long run, it is less expensive to purchase floodplain property from willing sellers than to continue repetitively paying insurance claims and/or providing disaster relief."

A repeat of the great flood in 1995 provided the first major demonstration of what can be achieved with a post-disaster voluntary buyout. In St. Charles County, where state and federal programs had bought 1,374 private properties in the flood area, total disaster assistance costs dropped from $26.1 million after the 1993 flood to $283,094 following the flood of 1995.

Buyouts also helped reduce the severity of subsequent floods. Following torrential rains last October, the National Weather Service predicted a flood crest of 35.9 feet on the Missouri River at Jefferson City. The actual crest was only 29.55 feet, partly because the Conservation Department and other agencies had bought more than 16,000 acres of flood-damaged land where 10,000 to 20,000 acre-feet of water could spread out harmlessly instead of rushing downstream to overtop levies.

"The hunter ordinarily has no gallery to applaud or disapprove his conduct. Whatever his acts, they are dictated by his own conscience, rather than by a mob of onlookers. It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of this fact.

--Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

Rare dragon haunts Missouri fens

Linden Trial was on a routine insect collecting trip to Grasshopper Hollow, but she netted more than a few bugs. Her discovery of a population of rare dragonflies may have helped save the federal government $10 million.

Trial, a fisheries research biologist for the Conservation Department, visited the area in Reynolds County with a butterfly net, hoping to catch some interesting insects. Among her catch was a Hine's emerald dragonfly, a federally endangered species previously known to live only in three other places, all in the upper Midwest.

The dragonfly favors "fens"--meadows bathed in water seeping from dolomite rock. The emerald-eyed dragons can be abundant in places that meet their habitat needs, so collecting a handful of the insects for scientific study doesn't threaten their continued existence. However, the scarcity of such areas leaves the species vulnerable to habitat loss.

Grasshopper Hollow contains one of the largest series of fens in the Ozarks. The USDA Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy and Doe Run Mineral Corporation, which own the land, have voluntarily enrolled it in Missouri's Natural Areas System, giving it a degree of protection.

The Hine's emerald dragonfly can be taken off the endangered list when six viable populations of at least 500 individuals are known to exist. In writing the recovery plan for the species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated the cost of achieving this goal at $10,686,000.

If Trial and others can find a few more thriving populations of the Hine's emerald dragonfly, the Fish and Wildlife Service might be able to meet its goal without having to reintroduce dragonflies to new areas or taking other expensive remedial measures.

Bake a Honey of a Thanksgiving Feast

If you bag a turkey during the shotgun turkey season Oct. 11 through 24, try this recipe for a Creole honey-baked bird from the National Wild Turkey Federation's cookbook, "Wild About Turkey."

Brush a dressed, 10-pound turkey with six tablespoons of honey, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stuff with your favorite dressing.

Melt a stick of butter and add two cups of white wine, eight ounces of chicken broth, a medium chopped onion, a teaspoon of parsley flakes and a teaspoon of Creole seasoning.

Baste the bird with the butter and seasoning mixture and place on a rack in a large baking pan. Bake at 325 degrees for four hours, basting occasionally with the remaining butter mixture.

Botanical Congress meets in St. Louis

Accelerating plant extinctions, global climate change and ways to make human life on Earth sustainable were among the topics discussed at the 26th International Botanical Conference (IBC) in St. Louis Aug. 1 through 7.

The congress, which meets every six years, drew 4,700 botanists. Representatives from 85 countries learned about the latest plant research and discussed pressing environmental issues including global warming, the effects of imported plants on native plant communities, the risks and ethics of genetic engineering and the growing wave of plant extinctions sweeping the Earth.

The Conservation Department was a major sponsor for the event, which was organized and hosted by the Missouri Botanical Garden. Botanical Garden Director Peter Raven, the Botanical Congress' current president, described issues facing plant scientists in his address at the Millennium Symposium Aug. 4 at the America's Center.

Raven noted that when humans developed crop agriculture 10,000 years ago the entire planet's human population was about the same as the number of people living in the St. Louis metropolitan area today. Since then, modern agriculture and other technological advances have allowed the human population to balloon to 6 billion.

The impact of Earth's growing human population has caused the pace of species extinction to accelerate to 10 times the historic rate. Tropical rainforests, which hold about three-quarters of the world's plant species, are expected to shrink by 95 percent in the coming century. A sixth of the world's plants are under threat of imminent extinction. If they are lost, humankind will lose all the potential food, medicinal and other values these plants contain.

"The last 50 years have demonstrated that we are not even remotely near living sustainably," said Raven. "We must learn to get what we need from the Earth while still passing along this beautiful, living planet relatively unimpaired."

Further information about the IBC and plant conservation is available online at <http://www.mobot.org/CPC/welcome.html> or by calling the Missouri Botanical Gardens at (314) 577-5175.

Scientists mobilize to save plants

The discovery of a plant that fights one of the world's deadliest viruses is lending urgency to efforts to stem the rising tide of plant extinctions.

The Bioresources Development and Conservation Programme of Silver Springs, Md., recently announced that a plant long used in African traditional medicine halts the growth of the Ebola virus.

Ebola fever has a fatality rate of up to 88 percent. But in vitro testing of the bitter kola tree shows that chemicals in the plant stop the virus from multiplying.

Botanists note that plant species are going extinct 1,000 times faster than they have during the last 65 million years. At the present rate, 200,000 of earth's 300,000 plant species will become extinct in the next century. Along with the plants we will lose the medicinal, food and other values they contain. It's impossible to calculate the value of resources, like bitter kola, that may be lost in this mass extinction.

The International Botanical Congress has proposed a plan to reverse the trend in plant extinctions. The plan calls for:

  • Monitoring plants worldwide to identify and conserve those in danger.
  • Increasing financial support for the study of plants.
  • Making information about plants more widely available through the Internet.
  • Preventing plant extinctions due to introduction of nonnative plants.
  • Making special efforts to protect plants with medicinal value.

A team of plant conservation experts working under the auspices of the Species Survival Commission of the World Conservation Union in Switzerland announced at the Botanical Congress meeting in St. Louis in August that it will launch an international program to conserve species that form the cornerstone of human existence.

Conservation Information Wins Top Honors

Missouri Conservationist magazine was among several Conservation Department outreach efforts that took top honors in national competitions recently.

The Conservationist took first place among four-color magazines entered in the competition sponsored by the Association for Conservation Information (ACI). The Conservation Department also won first place for its weekly print news release package, All Outdoors, for its 1998 Natural Events Calendar, for a radio public service announcement about wildlife restoration and for the one-time publication "Missouri Muskrats, A Guide to Damage Prevention and Control."

Former Conservation Department filmmaker Glenn Chambers won the best-director Emmy for his role in producing the Conservation Department's film "Back to the Wild," about wildlife restoration in Missouri. The film also won Emmys for best audio and best musical score.

News & Almanac editor Jim Low won first place in the Outdoor Ethics Writing Contest sponsored by ACI and the Izaak Walton League of America for a feature news story that appeared in All Outdoors.

Hunters help stabilize snow goose numbers

Missouri hunters bagged 80,500 snow geese during the 1998-99 hunting season, almost twice the previous state harvest record. In the entire Mississippi Flyway, of which Missouri is a part, hunters bagged 394,200 snow geese. That's up 53 percent from the previous record flyway harvest.

Hunters in the Central Flyway west of Missouri killed 295,800 snow geese during the regular hunting season, bringing the midcontinent harvest to 690,000.These figures don't include snow geese killed during the late-season conservation order intended to lower snow goose numbers.

The harvest figures are hopeful news to wildlife managers, who fear that North America's snow goose flock could be headed for disaster. Habitat improvements and changes in agricultural practices along the birds' migratory route contributed to explosive growth in snow goose numbers in recent years. The midcontinent snow goose population--up from 2 million in the 1970s to more than 5 million today--already has caused permanent damage to the birds' breeding grounds, and total devastation is possible if the birds' population growth isn't checked.

To avert a large-scale ecological disaster, Canadian and U.S. officials liberalized hunting regulations last year. Population surveys conducted last summer showed that snow goose numbers remained at about 1998 levels.

Liberal hunting regulations will be in effect again this year. If you would like to get in on this unique opportunity to put food on the table and serve

the cause of conservation, reread the story titled "Hunting the Wind" in the October 1997 issue of Missouri Conservationist or look on page 30 of the December 1998 issue.

Congress seeks compromise on parks and wildlife bill

With four of Missouri's Congressional delegation and 100 other senators and representatives behind it, the Conservation and Reinvestment Act of 1999 (CARA) appears to have a good chance of becoming law. If that happens, Missouri could receive $17 million a year to spend on state and local parks, recreation and wildlife projects.

U.S. Rep. Ike Skelton is the latest Missouri congressional representative to throw his support behind the movement. Other Missouri supporters include Reps. Karen McCarthy and Pat Danner and Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond. House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt and Rep. William Clay have endorsed Resources 2000, a bill with similar goals and provisions.

At press time, proponents of competing bills were working on a compromise to provide

stable funding for wildlife-based outdoor recreation. If they succeed, the result will be the most comprehensive land, wildlife, recreation and conservation legislation in a decade.

The Conservation Federation of Missouri has joined Bass Pro Shops and dozens of other Missouri businesses and conservation groups in supporting CARA. More than 3,000 groups nationwide are lobbying Congress to pass some form of the legislation. The governors of 31 states have expressed support for some form of the bill.

To find out more about CARA and similar bills, call (800) 575-2322 or send e-mail to <criley@socketis.net>.

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