Some people treat caves like just another hole in the ground. Their sinkholes are used as dumps, and their treasures are plundered or vandalized.
This disturbs Jim Kaufmann of the U.S. Geological Survey in Rolla, who knows that these valuable habitats are home to delicate ecosystems and historic wonders. So he recently led two groups of enthusiastic Licking High School Science Club members on a show-and-tell adventure that focused on the importance of cave conservation.
No strangers to the active side of science education, the club members regularly participate in float trips, camping, star gazing, wild game cookouts and conservation service projects, such as trail cleanup and invasive species eradication. Wes Holmes, a science/math teacher and one of the group’s leaders, says that the club’s goal is to provide wholesome experiences in the outdoors and encourage kids to become more aware and concerned about their environment. “It’s good for the kids, the community, the state and our resources,” Holmes says. But he insists that “plain old fun things” are just as important as intentionally educational exercises in the outdoors.
The students spent more than eight hours exploring miles of passageways at a cave in Pulaski County and learned about caves and karst, cave environments, basic caving skills, and cave conservation and ethics. Though the outing was intensive and educational, according to Holmes, no one had to remind the students to have fun.
The Missouri and Mississippi rivers are major migratory pathways for birds. Ducks, geese, shorebirds, large wading birds, raptors and songbirds use the habitats along the confluence of these rivers to rest, refuel and nest. The Missouri/Mississippi River Confluence also provides important resources for agriculture and water quality.
To ensure the Confluence continues to fulfill its historic roles, despite development pressures, a diverse partnership has developed among conservation organizations, St. Louis-area duck hunting clubs and private landowners to restore and maintain the area.
One successful strategy has been to work with landowners to establish conservation easements. Conservation easements are used by landowners to protect their lands from development while allowing them to retain ownership and use the land for economic gain or recreation. They do not prevent landowners from using the property for farming, ranching, forestry, hunting or other recreational purposes. Confluence area easements serve double duty as they permanently protect important habitat, and the value of the easements is a major contributor of match money used in securing North American Wetlands Conservation Act grants. These grants are used to restore aging infrastructure on historic public wetland areas.
Seven area duck clubs have made the commitment to permanently protect nearly 5,000 acres. These partners were recently honored at an event hosted by Ducks Unlimited and the Great Rivers Habitat Alliance. The meeting not only recognized their generous gifts, but provided a forum for conservation partners and landowners to discuss future plans for the Confluence.
Editor In Chief - Ara Clark
Managing Editor - Nichole LeClair
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Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
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