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New conservation management team in place

Conservation Department Director John Hoskins has his new management team in place. After taking over as director July 1, Hoskins eliminated 14 mid-level administrator positions. He also consolidated some divisions, reducing the total number from 10 to nine. The primary goal was more effective operation. The changes also will free up about $2.1 million annually.

Two deputy directors will supervise the divisions. Deputy Director John W. Smith, who formerly oversaw all the Conservation Department's divisions, will focus his attention on the agency's resource management divisions--Forestry, Fisheries, Wildlife, Protection and Science.

Along with Smith, Hoskins also picked Stephen J. Wilson to serve as deputy director, overseeing the Outreach and Education, Human Resources, and Administrative Services divisions. Wilson began his career in 1976 as a media and training specialist with the National Rifle Association (NRA) in Washington, D.C. He has served the Conservation Department as outdoor skills specialist and protection regional supervisor. From 1994 until 2001, he worked as city administrator in Jackson, Missouri.

Hoskins' chose David W. Erickson to lead the Department's Wildlife Division. Before assuming leadership of the Wildlife Division, Erickson headed the Administrative Services Division.

During his 25-year career with the Conservation Department, Erickson has also worked as a wildlife biologist, wildlife research biologist, wildlife management specialist, wildlife research supervisor and Wildlife Division assistant chief.

Dale D. Humburg will be the first administrator of the newly created Science Division. He began his career with the Department in 1977 as a wildlife biologist assigned to the Fish and Wildlife Research Center in Columbia. Promoted to wildlife research biologist in 1979, he distinguished himself as leader of the Department's wetlands and waterfowl research program, and as one of the premier waterfowl biologists in North America.

The mission of the Science Division will be providing science-based information to assist the field divisions in their work. The new division will perform much of the information-gathering work formerly handled by the Natural History Division and the applied research work performed by the Department's Columbia Research Center. Other natural history functions will be shifted to the Forestry, Fisheries and Wildlife divisions.

Hoskins said the Natural History Division has had tremendous success representing the interests of endangered and nongame species. "That work will continue," said Hoskins. "The changes don't indicate a loss of emphasis on natural history functions, but a shift to greater visibility and an embracing by the management divisions. We remain committed to managing non-game species and natural communities in a sustainable way."

Hoskins tapped Lorna H. Domke to head the Outreach and Education Division. Before the appointment, she served as outreach programs chief. She began work with the Department as film production assistant and also served as assistant public affairs division chief. In addition to producing award-winning films and an interactive CD game, she authored a children's book that conveys conservation values to children ages 2 to 6. She also has classroom teaching experience at the undergraduate level.

Carter Campbell was picked by Hoskins to head the Department's Administrative Services Division. He is a certified public accountant and also holds a certificate in government finance management. He began his career with the Conservation Department in 1999 as Fiscal Services Chief. He will continue to serve as the Department's chief financial officer in his new job.

Assistant Director Gerald Ross will continue as the Conservation Department's legislative liaison, while also supervising the Policy Coordination Section.

Help wanted: Conservation contractors

Call them conservation contractors or habitat helpers. Whatever the title, Missourians are increasingly in the market for the services of private contractors who can help turn conservation dreams into reality.

Landowners can get technical information from the Conservation Department about improving fish and wildlife habitat on their property. However, many landowners lack the experience, equipment or time to do the work themselves. Some are willing to pay others to do the job, but finding conservation contractors can be difficult.

The Conservation Department's Private Land Services Division wants to help fill this void by helping individuals, companies and civic groups get into the business of conservation contracting. The financial incentives are significant, and much of the work is within the capability of landscapers, handyman services or civic groups.

For instance, an FFA chapter or scout group could spend a weekend building brush piles or removing cedars for a glade restoration project. A well-driller could install a well as an alternative watering source to help a farmer protect his stream frontage from trampling by cattle.

A heavy equipment operator might find steady work building shallow watering areas for wildlife for the growing number of rural, residential landowners. An individual with a chainsaw can perform timber stand improvement for people who own small forest acreages. Tree-planting projects could be fundraisers for local garden clubs.

Conservation contracting is a natural fit for farmers seeking extra income. Row-crop farmers can disc neighbors' CRP fields. Cattle producers might hire out to convert fescue fields to native, warm season grasses.

If conservation contracting interests you, contact the nearest Conservation Department office and ask for a Private Land Services Division representative.

Forest stewards to meet March 22

Private forest owners from Missouri, Iowa and Illinois will gather March 22 in Keokuk, Iowa, to discuss landowner concerns and questions about forest management.The Tri-State Forest Stewardship Conference will focus on four themes: wildlife and forest health, forestry beginnings, working trees and forest management. Subjects covered will include prescribed burning, managing wildlife damage, enhancing habitat, tree identification, chainsaw safety, nature photography, hunting leases, weed control, bottomland hardwood forest management, marketing timber and a forest health update.

Advance registration costs $35 per person or $60 per couple. After March 16, the prices are $40 per person and $70 per couple. For more information, contact Julie Rhoads, University of Missouri-Columbia, 203 ABNR Building, Columbia, MO 65211, (573) 882-3234, <RhoadsJ@missouri.edu>.

CWD ruled out as cause of hunters' deaths

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have ruled out chronic wasting disease as the cause of death of two Wisconsin hunters. The investigation puts to rest fears that the men might have been infected by eating venison.

Rumors ran rampant last fall after public health officials launched an investigation to learn what killed two Wisconsin residents, Roger Marten and Wayne Waterhouse. The two were friends of James Botts, a Minnesotan with whom the two other hunters had shared wild-game feasts. The feasts included venison.

Botts died in 1999 of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD). The other two men died in 1993. The discovery of chronic wasting disease in some Wisconsin deer last year fueled fears that all three had contracted a disease from eating venison.

CJD is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE), or brain-wasting disease of humans that was discovered in the 1920s. It affects about one in a million people worldwide each year. Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a disease of deer and elk that appeared in Colorado in the 1960s. Both are caused by infectious protein fragments called prions.

The CDC investigation showed that neither of the two Wisconsin sportsmen died of CWD. The federal health agency also says there is no evidence that CWD affects humans.

Because CWD has been found in wild or captive deer and elk in several states bordering Missouri, the disease is a significant threat to the state's wild deer herd. The Conservation Department collected tissue samples from more than 6,000 deer during the 2002 firearms deer hunting season as the first part of a three-year, statewide CWD testing program. Results form those tests are expected in February or March.

Vulture Venture is back!

Vulture Venture has returned. After a one-year hiatus, the Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery near Branson is again offering an opportunity to see some of Missouri's biggest and most interesting birds of prey up close and in large numbers.

The event is set for noon to 6 p.m. Feb. 22. Besides hourly indoor presentations with a live vulture, there will be vulture games and vulture trivia. Naturalists will have spotting scopes set up outdoors for viewing the largest wintering population of vultures in the state. Visitors will see both black and turkey vultures.

Late in the afternoon, participants will be treated to the "kettling" of vultures as they come in to roost. This free program requires no reservations. For more information or directions, call (417) 334-4865, ext. 0.

Multi-purpose Missouri River map available

Are you interested in following Lewis and Clark's route on the Missouri River? A new map will help by showing access points and nearby river use amenities, like fuel or camping. The Lewis & Clark Bicentennial Lower Missouri River Guide to Recreation and Visitor Safety also shows the places Lewis and Clark camped, and sites where interpretive signs will be erected in mid-2003.

Each of 12 river segments is mapped on an 11-by-17-inch page with information on the facing page. The information includes a short description of Lewis and Clark's experience in the area, safety tips about boating on the big river, and tables about accesses and public lands. An informative narrative and color illustrations make the piece attractive as well as useful.

The map was created by the Kansas City District of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers in cooperation with several state agencies, including the departments of Conservation, Natural Resources and Transportation. One free copy can be obtained from the Corps by calling its Missouri River Information Center, 866/285-3219. Conservation Department offices and nature centers near the Lewis and Clark trail will provide single copies by request as long as limited supplies last.

The Missouri River Information Center also distributes a companion publication, the "Missouri River Travelers Guide and Journal." The guide contains information to help travelers plan a Missouri River trip and covers the river from Helena, Mont., to St. Louis. This publication also is available free of charge by calling 866/285-3219.

Grow Native! goes live

Would native plants be appropriate for your next landscaping or planting project? Which native plants would thrive in a sunny backyard with wet soil? Are you thinking about enhancing an existing woodland area with flowers that offer spring blooms and shrubs that have great fall color? Would you like to see real examples of landscape-worthy natives used in yards and larger properties? The answers to these and many other questions are available at <grownative.org>.

Grow Native's new, user-friendly website is packed with landscaping ideas, how-to information and hundreds of beautiful color images. It consolidates growing information and images about flowers, grasses, ferns, aquatic plants, trees, shrubs and vines, as well as planting combinations and design guidance. The website also lists garden centers and nurseries selling native plants and seeds, and businesses offering design, installation and maintenance assistance.

A well-planned native landscaping will:

  • Provide year-round beauty
  •  Attract wildlife
  • Reduce the need for watering and maintenance
  • Eliminate the need for fertilizers or pesticides
  • Resist insects and diseases
  • Promote survival of hardy, drought-tolerant natives
  • Improve soil and water quality

– Natalia Hamill

Buy fishing permits early for trout season opener

Are you going to visit one of Missouri's four trout parks for the spring fishing season opener? March 1 falls on Saturday this year, which usually means a busy opener, so anglers who wait until the last minute to buy permits may face a long line.

You also can buy permits by phone or online at wildlifelicense.com/mo. You will pay $2 for the convenience of buying online. Remember that permits purchased electronically are delivered by mail. You need a fishing permit in hand to buy your daily trout tag. To ensure that you have your fishing permit in time, place orders at least 10 days before March 1.

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