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Can-do Approach Wins Accessibility Award

Missourians don't let disabilities stop them from going outdoors. The Conservation Department tries to mirror this can-do attitude in programs and facilities that welcome the disabled, and the Governor's Council on Disability recently recognized the Department's accessibility efforts with a Community Enhancement Award.

The award recognizes successful efforts to include people with disabilities in employment, education, recreation and community activities. Jerry L. Case, a member of the Conservation Department's citizen Disabled Accessibility Advisory Council, nominated the Department for the award. "Recreation is for everyone," said Case, "and the Department of Conservation demonstrates that through its many efforts to make programs available to people with disabilities."

Case said the Conservation Department has given high priority to recreation for people with a broad range of disabilities as well as in employment. It allocates a sizable portion of its budget and staff resources to designing and building new facilities or retrofitting existing ones to include people with disabilities. Such facilities include fishing areas, boat ramps, rest rooms, shooting ranges, nature trails and exhibits throughout the state. The Conservation Department also works to make people with disabilities aware of these facilities through publications and videos.

For more information about Conservation Department programs and facilities for the disabled, call (573) 751-4115, ext. 161.

Hunter Charged with Leaving the Scene of Accident

The victim of a fall turkey hunting accident at Davisdale Conservation Area Oct. 16 came through the experience with little more than a headache. But the headaches are just beginning for the hunter who shot the man.

Investigators say the shooter failed to identify his target, firing at what he assumed was a turkey hiding in grass. It turned out to be another hunter. The victim was struck by two shotgun pellets, which lodged between his skull and his scalp. He was hunting again the next day.

The shooter helped the injured man to his vehicle. But then he left without identifying himself or contacting law enforcement officials, as required under a law that went into effect last August. Investigators tracked the shooter down, and he eventually admitted shooting his fellow hunter. He was charged with a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a $1,000 fine and a year in jail. He also stands to lose his hunting privileges.

The moral of this story: Own up to your mistake if you are involved in a hunting accident.

Missouri's "personal responsibility law" applies to all shootings, not just hunting accidents.

Seek to Find Private Lands Solutions

The newly formed Private Lands Services Section will be led by a 27-year Conservation Department veteran whose credentials include hands-on experience in farming practices and wildlife management, plus extensive training in management and strategic planning.

The Conservation Commission approved setting up the private lands program last fall and set aside $2 million to get it up and running. George Seek, formerly wildlife regional supervisor in northwest Missouri, assumed leadership of the section in November.

Seek's past job assignments have included wildlife district supervisor, wildlife area manager and wildlife research assistant. Besides his training and experience in resource management, he is trained in strategic planning.

Seek says he intends to leave as much responsibility as possible in the hands of 30 private land conservationists, each of whom will work in a two- to four-county area. This, he says, will give them and landowners freedom to do what works best—for landowners and wildlife—in every part of the state.

"We are going to hire people with a can-do attitude for the private land conservationist jobs," says Seek. "We hope to attract the best and the brightest from the Conservation Department's resource divisions for the Private Lands Section. Then we plan to give them the tools and the authority to develop fresh, new ideas and put them into practice."

The Private Lands Services Section eventually will comprise 60 workers in offices around the state. Private land conservationists will bring landowners together with foresters, fisheries and wildlife biologists, wetland and grassland experts and other specialists. "Putting responsibility and decision-making authority at the local level will let landowners work out solutions to their

special needs," says Seek. "This approach has huge promise for dealing with challenges all the way from soil erosion and quail habitat to chip mills."

Seek says he hopes to have the Private Lands Services Section fully staffed and working by July. He has a goal of contacting 48,000 landowners in the section's first three years of operation and surveying another 250,000 to learn what services will help them realize their vision for fish, wildlife and forest on their land.

Combs Lake Back in Business

The saga of Combs Lake has a happy ending. In fact, the "upground" reservoir in Dunklin County is even better than originally planned as a result of work to fix the lake's problems.

The Conservation Department built the 150-acre reservoir on Little River Lake Conservation Area to provide fishing opportunities in a part of the state where lakes were nonexistent. Soils in the Bootheel Region are underlain by deep beds of sand and gravel deposited by the Mississippi River over tens of thousands of years. Because water easily drains through these porous materials, you can't just dig a hole and expect it to hold water. So the Conservation Department ringed the future lake bed with levees, creating an above-ground reservoir.

Combs Lake ran into trouble when water began leaking through previously unknown sand-filled fissures in the clay bottom. To fix the problem, the lake was drained and its entire bed was excavated to eliminate sand fissures, then resealed with a layer of packed clay. Six weeks after the work was finished, the lake was at normal pool and holding water well.

Sandy soil removed during the repair had to be dumped somewhere, so the Conservation Department used it to build fish habitat structure. The repairs required extra clay soil to fill where sand was removed, so the Conservation Department "borrowed" this material from the borders of artificial wetlands nearby, increasing the size of these marshy wildlife habitats from 180 to 200 acres.

Combs Lake has a boat ramp with courtesy dock, parking area, fishing dock and privies. Stocking will begin this spring with bluegill and redear sunfish, channel catfish, largemouth bass and black crappie.

Cruise on Down to Eagle Days Jan. 8

Eagle Days at Lake of the Ozarks will feature continuous live eagle displays from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Jan. 8 and a chance to go for a wild eagle cruise on the paddlewheeler Tom Sawyer.

This year's event will be held at the Historic Wilmore Lodge off Highway 54 at the Bagnell Dam exit. Instead of eagle presentations every hour on the hour, there will be a bald eagle and a golden eagle out for viewing all day long. Eagle handlers from the World Bird Sanctuary will be there to answer questions.

Trained volunteers will staff an outdoor eagle viewing area at the Wilmore Lodge and at the Conservation Department's Osage River access below Bagnell Dam. Spotting scopes and binoculars will be available at both locations.

The Tom Sawyer, whose enclosed decks are heated, will take visitors on eagle-watching cruises at 10 and 11 a.m., noon and 1 p.m. Conservation Department naturalists will accompany each cruise to give presentations about eagles and help passengers look for eagles. The cruise will last 30 minutes and cost $3 per person.

Communication Critical to New Forestry Division Administrator

The new chief of the Conservation Department's Forestry Division says he considers better communication with the public critical to conserving the state's forest resources.

Robert Krepps, 55, came to work for the Conservation Department in November 1998 as forestry field programs supervisor in Jefferson City. On Nov. 1, the Commission appointed him Forestry Division administrator, replacing Marvin Brown, who resigned last month to take a job with Willamette Industries in Fort Mill, S.C.

Before coming to Missouri, Krepps worked for the USDA Forest Service for 28 years. His jobs have involved everything from on-the-ground forestry and legislative liaison to handling public information for the National Incident Management Team on major fires throughout the western United States.

Krepps' goals for the immediate future include increasing the Forestry Division's communication with citizens. He says he hopes to use his background in public information to strengthen partnerships between government agencies, landowners and other interest groups. He said his division's biggest challenge is providing private landowners, who control more than 90 percent of the state's forest acreage, the information they need to make wise management choices.

Centennial Forests: Missouri's Early Forests

Before the turn of the century, Americans gave little thought to the future of their forests. The resource seemed inexhaustible. But in 1900 the few professional foresters in the United States organized a group called the Society of American Foresters to promote the care and management of forests. A century later, the Department of Conservation and the Missouri Society of American Foresters are celebrating 100 years of forest conservation with Centennial Forests events around the state. The Conservationist will recognize this milestone with monthly articles throughout this Centennial of Forestry year to promote a better understanding of Missouri's forests.

Rivers were highways for Missouri's early explorers, whose journals include many observations about forests. Lewis and Clark made repeated references to the fine timber along the banks of the Missouri River. Lewis, making notes on the Gasconade River, wrote that "the country watered by this river is … thickly covered with timber and tolerably fertile."

Gottfried Duden, a German who visited Warren County in the mid-1820s, was amazed by the variety in Missouri's forests. Compared to his homeland, where there were only three species of oak, he noted that Missouri's forests had 16 species of oak and eight species of walnut and hickory. His letters home were meant to promote immigration to the new world, so he may have exaggerated a bit when he wrote, "One can travel hundreds of miles between gigantic trees without a single ray of sunlight falling upon one's head."

Henry Rowe Schoolcraft was the first skilled observer of natural features in the Ozarks. On Nov. 11, 1818, he wrote "we entered into lofty forests of pine … found ourselves on the banks of the Currents' (sic) River, in a deep and romantic valley, the soil rich, and covered with a heavy growth of trees." These lofty forests would change life in the Ozarks later that century. — Bruce Palmer

Elk Study Moves into Final Phase

The ongoing feasibility study has identified six sites that are biologically suitable for elk restoration in Missouri.The proposed areas are Peck Ranch Conservation Area, the Potosi and Doniphan ranger districts of the Mark Twain National Forest and the Clearwater Lake, Current River and Sunklands areas. All the proposed areas are heavily wooded and away from population centers, intense crop farming and four-lane highways.

The Conservation Department launched the study in response to a request from the Conservation Federation of Missouri. To make sure that it gets all viewpoints, the Conservation Department has sought the help of the Missouri Farm Bureau, the Missouri Cattlemen's Association, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and The Nature Conservancy.

A mail survey of landowners in the potential elk release areas garnered some interesting information last summer. Landowners knew little about elk. They saw benefits to reintroducing elk, but had concerns about potential problems. Of the landowners who expressed an opinion, 64 percent favored an elk reintroduction.

Landowners in the 10-county potential release area knew more about elk than statewide respondents, saw greater benefits and, except for poaching, were less concerned about potential problems. A higher percentage (71 percent) of landowners in the potential release area favored elk reintroduction.

The Conservation Department also will survey the non-landowning public about possible elk restoration, giving special attention to opinions of citizens in the potential release area to ensure adequate representation of those who would be affected most directly by an elk release. After analyzing survey results next spring, the Conservation Department will hold public meetings in each county with potential release areas to give people in those areas more information about the proposal.

Permits Available at all Times

Are you too busy to make a special trip just to buy hunting and fishing permits? If so, you'll be glad to know that you can buy most Missouri hunting and fishing permits 24 hours a day, seven days a week without leaving home.

You can buy any permit except any-deer and bonus deer permits with a Visa or Mastercard by calling (800) 392-4115. The permits will be mailed to you.

For the current permit year (which ends Feb. 29) you must wait for your permits to arrive before hunting or fishing. But starting March 1, hunting and fishing privileges purchased by phone will be effective instantly. Conservation agents will be able to check permit buyers' privileges by computer in the field.

The new system makes buying permits for loved ones a breeze. To purchase a permit as a gift, you need the recipient's conservation number, which is printed on current permits. If the conservation number is unavailable, you must provide the person's name, address, date of birth, social security number, hair and eye color, height and weight. A hunter education certification number also is required, if the recipient was born on or after January 1, 1967.

Scholarships Appeal to Conservation Students

The Conservation Federation of Missouri (CFM) has scholarships for college students in environmental sciences. CFM provides financial help to college students each year from the Charles P. Bell Conservation Scholarship Fund. The CFM also has scholarships for school or youth group conservation projects to promote conservation education or projects to protect natural resources. Applications are due by Jan. 15. For application forms or more information, write to Conservation Federation of Missouri Charitable Trust, 728 West Main Street, Jefferson City, MO 65101-1534 or call toll-free (800) 575-2322.

The Missouri Conservation Agents Association (MCAA) also is accepting applications for two college scholarships. Any Missouri college undergraduate or high school student entering college may apply. The application deadline is April 1. Application forms for the MCAA scholarships can be obtained from high school counselors, college financial aid advisors or conservation agents or by writing to MCAA, 223 Dix Rd., Apt. 46, Jefferson City, MO 65109.

Habitat Hint: Winter Water Helps Drought-stressed Trees

Remember how the drought last summer and fall caused trees to drop their leaves early? Drought stress isn't as obvious this time of year, but trees continue to suffer. You can help trees recover by providing adequate moisture throughout the winter.

Trees continue to lose moisture when tree tops are bare and dormant.

Continued drought this time of year can further weaken drought-stressed trees, leaving them even more vulnerable to disease, insects and weather-related stress when warm weather returns.

To help trees recover from last year's drought, soak the soil around them once a month when rainfall is sparse. Do this only during mild weather, taking care to water an area as large as the tree's crown. A soaker hose works best.

Winter watering can be especially critical to young trees and mature trees that already are stressed by disease or insect pests.

Bowhunters' Conclave Set for Feb. 4-6

The United Bowhunters of Missouri's 13th Annual Bowhunter Festival will take place Feb. 4 through 6 at the Ramada Inn in Jefferson City. Bowhunting legend Fred Asbell will be the keynote speaker at the banquet.

Asbell is president of the Pope and Young Club, the author of several books about bowhunting and founder of the Bighorn Custom Bow Company. Other festival attractions include hunting seminars, displays of custom-made bows and other archery equipment, a silent auction and a live auction of bows, hunting trips, artwork and other archery-related items.

For registration information, contact UBM, P.O. Box 10587, Gladstone, MO 64118. E-mail <dennis-harper@worldnet.att.net>or phone (816) 468-1758.

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