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Quail-friendly farming pays

North America's bobwhite quail population declined from 59 million birds in 1980 to about 20 million in 1999. In August, President George W. Bush announced a new initiative to reverse this trend by creating 250,000 acres of bobwhite habitat.

This new initiative is called Habitat Buffers for Upland Birds (HBUB). It encourages landowners to create buffers of native warm-season grasses, legumes, wildflowers, forbs and shrubs along agricultural field borders.

Thirty-five states are included in the plan. Missouri is one of only five states eligible to receive funding for the maximum of 20,000 acres.

Under HBUB, landowners can create buffers around entire crop fields with a minimum width of 30 feet and a maximum width of 120 feet.

Landowner incentives include:

  • A sign up payment of up to $100 per acre
  • Practice payments of up to 40 percent of the eligible establishment cost
  • Annual rental payments for the length of the contract
  • Maintenance incentive payments
  • Cost-share assistance of up to 50 percent of the eligible reimbursable practice costs. Program sign-up started Oct. 1 and will continue until 20,000 acres are enrolled. To learn if your land qualifies, contact a Farm Service Agency office and ask about CP33.

Frog deformities linked to snails, excess nutrients

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Wisconsin have established a link between deformed frogs and excess nutrients in ponds.

Frogs with missing or multiple limbs were first noticed in Wisconsin in 1995. The next year, a student at Gentry Middle School in Columbia discovered the same phenomenon there.

One of the researchers established a link between frog deformities and a parasite that uses a particular snail species as an intermediate host. The parasites thrived where the snails were abundant. When the parasites infected frogs and toads, they caused deformities.

Another researcher found a link between elevated nitrogen and phosphorus levels in pond water and snail numbers. Pooling their knowledge, the two documented a chain of events that starts with runoff from agricultural fields or real estate development and ends with deformed frogs.

Habitat Hints: Feast for Finches

To attract American gold finches, purple finches and house finches, turn your yard into a living bird feeder. The Finch Feast Landscape Guide at Grow Native! will get you started.

The guide suggests a collection of Missouri's native grasses and flowers, such as prairie dropseed and purple coneflower. The seeds of these plants provide food for finches all year.

To enhance your finch feast and encourage the birds to nest nearby, border your yard with seed-bearing trees and shrubs. Be sure to offer open space and a year-round water source. Your reward will be a yard brimming with birds.

To order an 8-page landscape guide that includes a finch feast, visit online or write to Grow Native! P.O. 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180. -- Barbara Fairchild

NATURAL EVENTSCALENDARS STILL AVAILABLE

It's not too late to buy the 2005 Natural Events Calendar, but supplies are running short. Visit a Conservation Nature Center or regional Conservation Department office to pick up your copy.

The 2005 calendar contains stunning photographs of plants, animals and landscapes. It also features daily entries that provide insights into natural happenings, from the arrival of ruby-throated hummingbirds to meteor showers.

The calendar costs $5, plus applicable tax and shipping. To order by mail, call (877) 521-8632, toll-free, or write to The Nature Shop, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102. You can also order online.

COMMUNITY LAKES ARE FEATHERS IN CAP

Initiated in 1980, the Community Assistance Program (CAP) provides fishing opportunities in communities throughout the state.

Through CAP and the closely related Corporate and Agency Partnership Program (CAPP), the Conservation Department enters into long-term agreements with cities, counties, state and federal agencies, businesses, foundations, schools and colleges. These agreements call for the Department to provide fisheries management at existing lakes and ponds, and cooperatively develop and maintain facilities for anglers and boaters at lakes and streams.

The Conservation Department stocks fish, manages habitat and sets fishing regulations. It also arranges most of the funding for facilities development. In return, the partners help with development, allow free public use of the area for fishing, boating and other recreation, and provide routine maintenance and law enforcement. CAP and CAPP agreements are tailored to individual circumstances and partners.

These programs are a cost-effective way for communities to provide fishing and boating opportunities. The Department has cooperative agreements with 104 partners for 133 public lakes totaling 9,030 acres. Also under the program are 41 community stream access areas, three lake access areas and five aquatic resources education ponds.

For more information about the CAP and CAPP programs, call the Department's Fisheries Division at (573) 751-4115.

Arbor Day poster contest

Trees are Terrific! and Energy Wise! is the theme for the 2005 National Arbor Day poster contest. Missouri fifth-graders will vie for a cash prize and the chance to compete in the national contest.

Packets with contest details are sent to art teachers statewide. Any fifth-grade teacher can obtain a packet by contacting Donna Baldwin, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102, <donna.baldwin@mdc.mo.gov>. The deadline for state contest submissions is Feb. 18.

The state winner will receive a $50 savings bond and a 6- to 12-foot tree to be planted on his or her school grounds. The national winner will receive a $1,000 savings bond and a trip to the National Arbor Day Foundation in Nebraska City, Neb.

Turkey Federation honors Kurzejeski

Eric Kurzejeski, left, former Conservation Department Resource Science Supervisor and now the Department's outreach programs chief, received a Lifetime Achievement Award from National Wild Turkey Federation Regional Director Travis Scott last January. The honor recognized Kurzejeski's wild turkey research and his 20 years of service on the NWTF technical committee. The Conservation Department received the NWTF's Agency Partnership Award.

Habitat work boosts Missouri River wildlife

Last summer, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted habitat work on the Missouri River to benefit pallid sturgeons. Ducks, beavers, catfish and frogs also will benefit from the project.

As part of a compromise to preserve navigation while conserving the endangered sturgeon, the Corps has dug side channels and chutes, cut notches in wing dikes and created dozens of miniature islands along the river. Altogether, the changes created 1,200 acres of shallow-water habitat where pallid sturgeon can spawn. In the future, the Corps hopes to create 20,000 acres of similar habitat between Ponca State Park in Nebraska and the mouth of the Osage River.

See ya later, alligator

Charlie Smith of Aurora got the surprise of his life when he reeled in a 31-inch alligator. Smith called the Conservation Department, and the ‘gator found a new home at Springfield's Dickerson Park Zoo. Alligators are not native to Missouri. The Stockton specimen had to be an abandoned pet.

AGENT NOTEBOOK

Some of my fondest memories are of my dad and me running a trap line together. I can still picture floating downstream on a cold wintry day, sipping hot soup. It seems like every time we rounded a bend we'd spot another raccoon in one of our hidden sets, and the excitement would start all over again.

Many regulations ensure that humane and proper trapping techniques are used today. Traps must have a smooth jaw and may not be set in paths used by people or domestic animals. Traps are to be plainly labeled with the user's name and address and attended daily. Special regulations apply to the use of Conibear-type traps and snares. Over the years, trapper education classes and techniques have increased and improved to ensure the best and most humane harvest of wildlife.

Fifty-five percent of Missourians agree that trapping is OK as long as it is regulated. Trappers harvest surplus wildlife and assist in removing nuisance wildlife and predators that threaten livestock. Trapping is part of our heritage, helps with wildlife management, and is an enjoyable sport. --Don Ruzicka

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