The Next Generation of Conservation at Work

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Published on: Sep. 2, 2006

Last revision: Nov. 29, 2010


Meeting Next Generation Goals

Developing the LaBarque Creek Watershed Plan illustrates how a single project can meet several Next Generation of Conservation goals. Conservation Department personnel are helping landowners advance conservation and are involving the community, including government, in conservation. When complete, the watershed plan will conserve plants, animals and their habitats and protect the clean and healthy waters of LaBarque Creek.

  • Conserving Plants, Animals and Their Habitats
  • Protecting Clean and Healthy Waters
  • Supporting Conservation in Our Communities
  • Helping Private Landowners Advance Conservation

The School and the Cavesnail

“This is a story I never get tired of telling.”

This is a story of helping. It’s about how a school helped a snail, and how agencies, local government and individuals came together to help the school help the snail, and how none of this help could have occurred if the snail wasn’t there to help the school in the first place.

The story began in 2004, when Mark Twain Elementary School in Protem discovered that, despite repairs, their aging water treatment lagoon continued to leak raw sewage into the ground.

A new sewage control system would cost Mark Twain Elementary $90,000, a big bite out of the money the 76-student school would normally spend for books, busses and teachers’ salaries.

Compounding the problem was that polluted water from the lagoon was filtering into the recharge area of the Tumbling Creek Cave, a designated national landmark for its biological diversity. Tumbling Creek Cave has more species than any other cave west of the Mississippi River.

Among these species is the story’s hero: the Tumbling Creek cavesnail.

In all the world this species lives only in this one cave, and its numbers have dropped so much in the past 30 years that the species is federally and state endangered. Threats to the cavesnail made the school’s water pollution problem an immediate conservation concern.

Richard Needham, the school’s superintendent, said the situation went from “unnerving” to a happy circumstance, in which three tiers of government—local, state and federal—along with private individuals were working together.

“It was a classic case of cooperation,” he said. “All had an interest in the environment. We wanted to save this cavesnail and keep the school operating.”

Funding was the biggest problem. Because of the threat to the cavesnail, the Conservation Department was able to secure a $20,000 federal Wildlife Diversity Fund grant for the water treatment project.

“That gave the fund-raising effort respectability,” said Tom Aley, owner of the Ozark Underground Laboratory, a research and educational

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