A Helping Hand on Public Land
the combine to show where corn should be left standing.
“We have to be precise on where we leave the standing corn,” Robert said. “That way when we flood the field we have water in the unharvested grain, a place for hunters to hide and a dependable food source for ducks and geese.”
In southwest Missouri, The Conservation Department has contracts with native seed companies to harvest native grass and wildflower seeds.
Contracts to harvest seed from native prairies also result from a competitive bidding process. The Department receives a portion of the harvested seed, which is then used to restore prairie on other conservation areas.
David Darrow, a wildlife management biologist in southwest Missouri, said, “Seed collection by permittees is helping protect our remaining tallgrass prairie. … Over the past four years we have received around 600 pounds of native grass and wildflower seed [annually]. This seed alone will plant about 60 acres of new prairie per year.”
David also works with Wes Spinks, who has leased land on conservation areas for grazing for the past seven years. The contract Wes has with the Conservation Department allows him to graze certain grasslands between April 15 and Aug. 15. The two communicate regularly about the condition of the cows, fencing problems and how much grass is left.
David said grazing by cows ends up being a great tool for prairie chicken and quail management.
Whether by planting and harvesting crops, grazing, seed collection or completing extra services, such as leaving unharvested grain, planting food plots or spraying fields, permittee farmers play a critical role in helping area managers keep conservation areas attractive to people and wildlife.
Helping private landowners
In 1999, the Missouri Department of Conservation created the Private Land Services Division, which is dedicated to assisting Missouri landowners achieve their natural resource goals.
Private land conservationists and other resource professionals provide technical assistance, on-site visits, detailed conservation plans, and the latest information on cost-share programs to landowners.
In 2006, the Private Land Services Division made nearly 40,000 contacts with Missouri landowners. The Department also administers a private landowner assistance program that provides approximately $1 million in cost-share to Missouri landowners. Visit online and click on your county to find your local private land conservationist.
Bidding for Success
The Conservation Department rents land through a bidding process. Area managers solicit bids for the acres to be rented by advertising in local newspapers. Phil Sneed, resource forester in the northwest region, said the number of farmers submitting bids for an area depends on the location, size, shape and productivity of the fields.
Farmers may also agree to complete other services for the Department, such as planting food plots, spraying fields, light disking of idle areas and mowing. These extra services are clearly spelled out in the bidding phase and in the actual contract.
This extra work helps the Department by freeing up staff to work on other projects, and it helps farmers save money by reducing the amount of annual rent they owe to the Department. Farmers must determine the value of the extra projects when submitting their bid.