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Don’t Move Firewood!

If you are planning a hunting and camping trip, be sure to leave firewood at home and don’t bring firewood home after hunting or camping. The hundreds of thousands of Missourians who hunt deer and other game could unintentionally spread the emerald ash borer, a devastating forest pest, if they cart firewood from place to place. Foresters urge all hunters to buy firewood where they camp and burn it all before returning home. For more information about emerald ash borers and other forest pests, visit the links listed below.

Renew CRP Contracts

Over the past 20 years, the federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) has created millions of acres of upland and wetland wildlife habitat by taking highly erodible farmland out of production. In the next four years, CRP contracts will expire on nearly 1 million of the 1.4 million acres of Missouri land currently enrolled. If all that land is put back into row crops and grazing, quail, pheasants, ducks, deer and turkeys and those who love them will be losers.

Landowners can prevent this in any of three ways. One is re-enrolling land in CRP during the next general sign-up. This might be even more attractive than before, as the CRP rental rates have improved. Check with your USDA Farm Service Agency Office to learn the new soil rental rate.

If you do take your land out of CRP, consider improving profits by leaving borders along the field edges and wide buffers around streams and ponds. You may be able to enroll these sensitive areas in practices such as CP21 Filter Strip, CP22 Riparian Forest Buffer and CP33 Habitat Buffer for Upland Birds. You still receive annual payments for enrolling field edges in these practices. The payments actually can be higher, thanks to sign-up incentives. In some cases, you also can receive up a 90-percent cost share to establish approved vegetation.

A recent study from the MU Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute showed that farmers come out ahead when they enroll their crop field edges into Continuous CRP practices such as CP33. For a complete report visit: www.fapri.missouri.edu.

A third way of keeping CRP’s wildlife benefits is to simply leave expired CRP fields in grass for haying and grazing. You can still take advantage of Continuous CRP practices if you fence CRP buffers from livestock.

Other USDA programs, administered by NRCS, such as the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program and the Environmental Quality Incentive Program help landowners develop better grazing systems and wildlife habitat. In Missouri, these programs provide funds for installing conservation practices. CRP fields might also qualify for the Grassland Reserve Program or Conservation Stewardship Program. Contact your NRCS Office for more information.

Holiday Gift Ideas

At a loss for a gift for the hunter, angler or nature lover who has everything? Consider getting something close to their hearts. Conservation-related holiday gift ideas include 2010 hunting and fishing permits. If that is too mundane, how about a Natural Events Calendar or a Missouri’s Outdoor Heritage Calendar from The Nature Shop?

You can browse through the full selection of Nature Shop merchandise, including books, greeting cards, DVDs, CDs and more online. If you still have the October Conservationist, check out the Nature Shop section in the center of the magazine. Many Nature Shop items are available at conservation nature centers, or online, or by calling toll-free (877) 521-8632.

Also, don’t forget to sign up youngsters for a free subscription to Xplor, the new conservation magazine for kids, at the link listed below.

Deer Baiters Beware

So what if you throw out some corn before deer season to improve your chances of success? Others are doing it, and who’s going to know?

You might be surprised, as dozens of Missourians are each year when conservation agents greet them on opening morning. Agents routinely use the Conservation Department’s helicopter to find bait sites. How do they know where to look? Law-abiding hunters and disgusted neighbors who don’t appreciate game cheaters tell them exactly where to look. In addition to citizen tips, conservation agents’ experience enables them to predict with surprising accuracy where and when baiting will occur.

You can report known or suspected baiting by calling the toll-free Operation Game Thief hotline, (800) 392-1111.

East-West Meeting

Six Chinese scientists from the Yangtze Water Resources Commission visited southeast Missouri in August. Their goal was to exchange information with Conservation Department scientists about the management of big rivers.

The visitors were particularly interested in the Missouri Trawl, a gear developed by Open Rivers and Wetlands Field Station scientists to catch fish in deep, swift rivers. The system incorporates nets with different mesh sizes to reduce the passage of small fish through the net and to prevent larger fish crushing smaller ones.

After seeing the gear in action, the Chinese scientists were eager to go home and adapt the system for their boats and rivers. They also learned about the middle Mississippi River, its plants, animals, wetland management, restoration, and efforts to save the endangered pallid sturgeon.

Conservation Department Resource Scientist Bob Hrabik traveled to China in May 2008 at the invitation of The Nature Conservancy. He was part of an eight-member U.S. scientific team that shared experiences with Chinese river managers and scientists from two universities and seven government agencies.

“During the Chinese scientists’ visit to southeast Missouri, our scientists presented results of monitoring and restoration work on the upper Mississippi River,” said Hrabik. “We emphasized methods and infrastructure. In return, our scientists obtained firsthand knowledge of the Yangtze, the Three Gorges Dam and its reservoir and ongoing work there. This scientific exchange is very exciting because it affords researchers and managers a chance to better understand ecological processes and better ways to manage the Mississippi and Yangtze rivers.”

Hrabik said the visit will encourage the Chinese scientists to explore ways to work with their Missouri counterparts on problems of mutual concern. This will lead to better understanding their respective systems and, eventually, to better river management in Missouri.

Swan Killers Draw Stiff Penalties

Quick action by hunters with cell phones has led to convictions and serious penalties for seven men who shot trumpeter swans last year.

Conservation agents’ phones began ringing moments after seven hunters opened fire on the huge, white birds at Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area on Dec. 30, 2008. Several groups of hunters were outraged when they witnessed the shooting of the swans—North America’s largest waterfowl and a species of conservation concern. Armed with detailed information from hunters, agents were waiting for the seven offenders as they left the conservation area.

Those who pleaded guilty were: Ross Bullard, 18, Hartsburg; Steven Johnson, 48, Columbia; Gregory McCoy, 20, St. Louis; Cary Morrison, 38, St. Louis; Jonathan Thornburgh, 31, Maryland Heights; and Terry Thornburgh, 53, Bridgeton. They each paid $750 in restitution to the Trumpeter Swan Society, plus $118.50 court costs. All received $1,000 fines and had their hunting privileges suspended for one year.

The remaining offender, Kody Kile, 20, Ashland, pleaded not guilty. However, the judge found him guilty, fined him $1,000 plus $118.50 court costs, and suspended his hunting privileges for two years. The judge also ordered Kile to pay $750 in restitution to the Trumpeter Swan Society and perform 20 hours community service.

Bear Killing Calls for Awareness

The illegal killing of a mature female black bear in Webster County in September underlines the fact that Missouri has a growing bear population. The reward offered for information leading to the conviction of the bear killer emphasizes the fact that Missourians value wild black bears, which are protected wildlife by the Wildlife Code.

Black bears are naturally shy of humans and seldom pose a threat unless cornered or surprised. While people can legally protect themselves, pets or livestock from imminent threat by bears, killing them under other circumstances can lead to hefty fines.

If you encounter a bear at close range, avoid making eye contact. Back away slowly while talking in a calm, normal voice. If a bear approaches your campsite and shows no fear, get in a locked vehicle and contact the nearest conservation agent or law-enforcement agency. For more information about preventing problems with black bears, visit the link listed below.

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