The Next Generation of Conservation at Work
the Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center. “We couldn’t have a plan without the enthusiasm and interest of landowners.”
Most of the landowners involved in the planning process are primarily interested in protecting the natural qualities of the LaBarque Creek watershed without causing economic hardship.
Ray Oberkramer, who owns 300 acres in the watershed and hosted one of the first planning meetings at his home, grew up in the area. He recalled how 60 years ago he would catch crayfish and bluegill from LaBarque Creek. He said it was important for people to get the value from their land, but, he added, “I’d hate to see someone come in and scrape the tops off the mountains and fill the valleys and take the sides of the hills and call them common ground.”
He said as they learn more about the natural values of the watershed, landowners are eager to have a say in the planning process. Membership in the LaBarque Creek Stream Team, which his wife, Sunny, started, is also rising.
“More and more people are getting involved,” Oberkramer said, “and that’s all good.”
The creation of a plan for LaBarque Creek watershed coincides with a county master plan revision. Boaz said the Jefferson County government is willing to work with the landowners and the Conservation Department to balance natural resource and development issues.
“It isn’t a question of whether the area is going to develop,” said Martin Toma, director of land use, development and code enforcement for Jefferson County. “We just hope to produce something that will provide guidance for landowners and government so we can achieve our mutual goals of preserving the value of the resource.”
Joining in the planning are a couple handfuls of conservation partners, including the Missouri Chapter of The Nature Conservancy; the Ozark Regional Land Trust; the Trust for Public Land; the Open Space Council; the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation; the East-West Gateway Council of Governments; the St. Louis District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; the LaBarque Creek Watershed Partners; the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Technical and general committees meet regularly to hammer out details of the plan, which will include terrestrial and aquatic inventories, Geographic Information Systems data and surveys of residents and other stakeholders.
“We are trying to involve all the people,” Boaz said. “We want everybody with all points of view involved. That’s the only way to develop a plan that’s actually going to