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“Miracle” Orchid Discovered

In April, members of the Missouri Native Plant Society discovered an orchid new to Missouri. While checking on known locations of rare sedges and an imperiled orchid, Justin Thomas noticed a tiny wildflower nearby and snapped a few photos of it. Looking at the photos later, he realized it was Southern twayblade orchid (Listera australis). The next day, Thomas and others found the plant again and confirmed its identity. All agreed it was a miracle no one had accidentally stepped on the plant. Just as amazing was the fact that Thomas had spotted what other accomplished botanists missed. An exhaustive search failed to turn up any additional Southern twayblade plants, but others might be hiding nearby, since they do not bloom every year. For more information about the Missouri Native Plant Society, visit the link listed below.

Exotic Snails Spreading

The latest in a seemingly endless parade of exotic plants and animals to show up in Missouri turned up in the Niangua River last year. A vacationer reported finding snails the size of chicken eggs near a private boat ramp at Mountain Creek Campground. Fisheries biologists identified them as Chinese mystery snails, which are on Missouri’s list of prohibited species. Besides being illegal to possess, they have the potential to multiply out of control, upsetting the ecological balance in Missouri waters. Considering how many high flows have occurred on the Niangua River in the past year, the snails likely have spread to other locations as well. Chinese mystery snails arrived in the United States through Asian food markets and the pet trade. The Niangua River infestation was the sixth confirmed in Missouri. The only known control method is hand removal. Much more important is to avoid spreading this and other aquatic invaders. The simplest precaution is never dumping aquaria or fishing bait. Releasing live bait into Missouri waters is illegal. Information about invasive species is available below.

Celebrating 10 Years of Service

Ten years after its creation the Private Land Services Division is taking stock of its accomplishments and preparing for the future. Created as the Private Land Section in September 1999, it was upgraded to a division three months later. Its workers have made 75,000 detailed technical assistance contacts with landowners, helped 34,000 people deal with wildlife damage and provided more than $9 million in Conservation Department-funded cost sharing to landowners. The division also has made significant strides in bobwhite quail restoration. Much of this success has hinged on partnerships ranging from traditional private wildlife clubs to a variety of agricultural based organizations. Division Chief Bill McGuire recently announced his plans to retire. Among challenges he says will extend beyond his watch are feral hog eradication, strengthening connections to rural and agricultural communities, prairie chicken restoration and improving management of non-industrial private forest land, which makes up more than 80 percent of Missouri’s forestland.

Feral Hog Toll Mounts

The outcome of Missouri’s war against feral hogs remains uncertain, but conservation officials are gathering intelligence behind enemy lines and marshalling forces for a pitched battle. Established populations of wild domestic swine, razorbacks and Russian boars exist in 20 counties, mostly in southern Missouri. Another 19 areas scattered all over Missouri have isolated feral hog populations. Feral hogs take acorns and other foods away from wildlife. They root up forests and fields, destroying crops, food plots, roots, small mammals and the eggs of ground-nesting birds, including quail and turkeys. They wallow in springs, creating erosion and fouling streams with their feces. Sharp tusks and aggressive dispositions make feral hogs dangerous. They also carry diseases, including brucellosis and pseudorabies, which could harm people and devastate Missouri’s livestock industry. The Conservation Department has removed more than 200 hogs from conservation areas and surrounding private property this year. Efforts by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service bring Missouri’s 2009 hog removal total to nearly 400. The two most effective hog removal methods have been shooting hogs from a helicopter and catching hogs in corral-type traps.

Cuts Include Office Closings

As part of efforts to cut annual costs by an estimated $7.5 million, the Conservation Department will close or end lease agreements for 13 office facilities throughout the state by July 2011. Facilities slated for closure are offices in Branson, Brookfield, Farmington, Fredericktown, Ironton, Liberty, Marble Hill, Sullivan and Van Buren and at Hartell, Little Dixie and Long Branch conservation areas and the University of Missouri Horticulture and Agroforestry Research Center. Most of these offices have six or fewer employees, most of whom spend the majority of their time in the field. Staff from these offices will move to other conservation facilities or work from home, as conservation agents do. The Department will reduce days of operation at six of its seven nature and education centers by spring of 2010. The closings will help the Conservation Department live within its financial means while continuing to provide quality conservation services.

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