Building Natural Wealth

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Published on: Nov. 2, 2003

Last revision: Nov. 16, 2010

mother to the Ozarks to view his property, Drey proudly showed off his land and forests. At one point, he embraced a tree to show her its girth. She responded, "That's about the saddest sight I've ever seen."

Before he could marry Kay, he had to put her to the canoeing test. "I was a canoer in the Ozarks long before I was a landowner," Drey said. She passed the test on the Upper Jack's Fork admirably, and the family, which came to include three children, spent many satisfying nights on gravel bars camping under the stars.

His most widely publicized purchase was Greer Spring in Oregon County in 1988. Greer is the second largest spring in Missouri, and its owners saw the potential for commercial development. They received an offer from a large corporation for an amount that couldn't be matched by the state or federal government, both of which were interested in protecting it. Drey stepped in with an offer the landowner accepted, then turned it over to the U.S. Forest Service at a bargain basement price.

Drey also purchased and protected the state's highest waterfall (Hickory Canyon Natural Area in Ste. Genevieve County) and the state's best example of old growth white oaks (Current River Natural Area in Shannon County), not to mention shut-ins, caves, canyons and many other one-ofa-kind natural areas.

The late John Wylie, a Conservation Department natural history chief, once said of Leo Drey, "Yes, there is a Santa Claus for natural areas in Missouri. Every now and then, Santa, in the form of Leo Drey, reaches deep into his bag of goodies and pulls out another jewel to present to the people of Missouri."

What will happen to these natural jewels when Leo Drey is gone? They will continue to be protected by the L-A-D Foundation. That stands for Leo A. Drey, and it was formed to care for the property in perpetuity. Its board is made up of a cross-section of dedicated conservationists who share Drey's views on the state's natural riches and their care.

For a state so rich in natural treasures, Missouri is richer still for having a real life Santa Claus. His name is Leo Drey.triangle

Missouri Natural Areas

Leo Drey contributed to Missouri's outdoor wealth by acquiring outstanding natural features for inclusion in the Missouri Natural Areas system. For a complete list of natural areas, go to:

Visit Pioneer Forest

Leo Drey established the 160,000-acre Pioneer Forest to demonstrate that Ozarks forests could produce a continuous supply of timber products and still maintain a broad range of environmental values, including wildlife, recreation, water quality and aesthetics.

The Virgin Pine Walk and Pioneer Forest Interpretive Drive are good ways to view the forest and its management techniques. They are located 25 miles south of Salem (one mile south of Round Spring) on Highway 19. Brochures are available on site to guide your tour.

The Roger Pryor Pioneer Back Country will also soon be available for hikers and backpackers. This remote, 61,000-acre area in Shannon and Reynolds counties will provide trails and primitive camping areas in natural surroundings. Hunting and fishing are also permitted throughout Pioneer Forest.

To learn more about Pioneer Forest, visit its web page.

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