A Strategy for Conservation Success
to staleness. Instead, every conservation employee, no matter how experienced, will be a freshly-trained leader.
Preserve and Restore the State's Biodiversity
The fate of Missouri's diverse array of plants, animals and natural communities could be said to be in the hands of its human residents. Population growth, along with the development that accompanies it, is a primary threat to the wildlife we value.
Preserving or restoring the state's biodiversity addresses what is essentially the Conservation Department's core mission. The relative health and abundance of fish and wildlife populations indicates the overall health of the natural environment that the Department exists to protect.
Dealing with Missouri's more than 5,000 species of plants, 20,000 animal species and 200 recognized natural communities on a statewide basis from a central location is impossible.
To make the task of protecting the state's resources manageable, the Conservation Department has distributed teams that include representatives from the wildlife, fisheries, natural history and private land services divisions, among others, to offices around the state.
The 10 regional teams approach resource planning and restoration and management of native plants and animal communities on a local or landscape scale. What's good for the Bootheel, for example, will no longer have to suffice for management options in the Chillicothe area, or vice-versa.
Habitat work is crucial to protecting populations of any species. If animals don't have places to live, they will disappear.
To ensure that Missouri continues to have representatives of all natural communities, the new strategic plan calls for the Conservation Department to complete Missouri's Natural Areas System. The 176 natural areas currently in the system are relatively undisturbed native habitats that range in size from one to several thousand acres.
These areas serve as reservoirs of living wild species, as baseline research centers and as models for natural community management. More natural communities and native landscapes will be identified and added to the system, and management on existing areas will focus on controlling exotic species and providing for public use.
Efforts at Hughes Mountain Natural Area provide an example both of working to protect and restore habitat and of enhancing existing natural areas. Karen Kramer, the Department's natural areas coordinator, said managers at Hughes Mountain regularly conduct prescribed burns to restore wildflower diversity to woodlands and igneous glades. They also wage a constant "cutting" battle against invading cedar.
The Conservation Department maintains a trail that goes to the top of the mountain so that visitors can enjoy the area.