Ask the Ombudsman
Q: Can you explain the method of predicting the severity of the coming winter by cutting open persimmon seeds?
A: I can’t vouch for any accurate forecasts from the method, but I can explain it. Female persimmon trees will begin ripening their fruits in late September. Each fruit contains from three to six seeds that are oval shaped, flattened and about three-fourths of an inch long. If you cut the seeds lengthwise, like you would separate the two halves of a bean, each will have a small structure within that is the plant embryo. The split embryo may resemble a knife, spoon or fork. A knife indicates a cold, icy winter (wind that cuts through you like a knife). A spoon indicates lots of snow (think of the spoon as a little snow shovel). A fork indicates a mild winter.
Q: What is the difference between a conservation area and a natural area?
A: Conservation areas (CAs) are properties owned and managed by the Conservation Department for Missouri’s citizens. Some of the smaller ownerships, such as office sites and river accesses are not referred to as CAs. Several years ago, we combined “state forests” and “state wildlife areas” under the common term of CAs. Natural areas (NAs) are places that have been specially designated as representing the best examples of Missouri’s landscape and have one or more kinds of high-quality “natural communities” present, such as forests, glades, prairies, streams, wetlands or caves. NAs are designated by a state multi-agency committee and may occur on CAs, other public lands or on private land. For more information on NAs, visit www.MissouriConservation.org/discover-nature/places-go/natural-areas.
Ombudsman Tim Smith will respond to your questions, suggestions or complaints concerning Department of Conservation programs. Write him at PO Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180, call him at 573-522-4115, ext. 3848, or e-mail him at Ombudsman@mdc.mo.gov.
Protecting our forests from arsonists
Forests are one of Missouri’s greatest renewable resources, providing many economic, environmental and social benefits. They protect hillsides from erosion, keeping streams and rivers clean. They filter the air, soften the extremes of the weather and add beauty to cities and towns. Much of Missouri’s recreation and tourism industry is centered in the forested regions of the state. Forests cover about a third of the state and contain some of the finest oak, walnut, pine and red cedar found anywhere. Not to mention, the forest is home to many plants and animals.
Every year forestry staff and community fire fighters respond to numerous forest fires. Some of these fires are naturally occurring, whereas others are the result of a person deliberately setting them ablaze. Arsonists can destroy property, deplete community fire-fighting funds and needlessly endanger lives. An active arsonist will set many fires. A 2009 arsonist case in Henry County tied a local resident to three of 33 reported fires in a three-month period. The apprehension and conviction of this arsonist was a community effort involving volunteer firemen, the sheriff’s office, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the Conservation Department and local citizens.
Conservation agents receive training in arson investigations and readily respond to fires with a questionable ignition site or source. If an arrest is made, the individual is charged under Missouri State Statute 569.055. It states, “A person commits the crime of knowingly burning or exploding when he knowingly damages property of another by starting a fire or causing an explosion.” This is a class D felony.
To aid in combating illegal activity, the Conservation Department and the Conservation Federation of Missouri have teamed to form the Operation Forest Arson/Operation Game Thief hotline. The hotline is manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You may remain anonymous and can ask to be considered for a reward. To report possible violations contact your local conservation agent or use the Operation Forest Arson/Operation Game Thief hotline at 1-800-392-1111.
Kevin Polley is the conservation agent for Pettis County. If you would like to contact the agent for your county, phone your regional Conservation office listed on Page 3.