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Conservation Commission Approves Elk Restoration Plan

At their October meeting the Missouri Conservation Commission approved an elk restoration plan that includes health protocols, herd management guidelines and habitat management recommendations. Releases of elk could begin as soon as early 2011.

The plan (available at www.MissouriConservation.org/node/10123) calls for releasing wild elk in a 346-square-mile (221,509 acres) elk restoration zone in parts of Shannon, Carter and Reynolds counties. The Conservation Department selected this limited restoration zone because of extensive public lands, suitable habitat, low road density, minimal agricultural activity and landowner support.

To ensure that Missouri’s wildlife and livestock remain healthy, the plan includes health testing guidelines developed by the Missouri departments of Conservation and Agriculture. “The developed animal health testing protocol has been proven in other states and meets or exceeds health testing requirements to move livestock or captive elk,” said State Veterinarian Dr. Taylor Wood.

The plan includes procedures to address elk that leave the restoration zone onto private land where they are not welcome and hunting to manage the herd in future years. All released elk will be fitted with radio collars to permit tracking their movements.

The plan calls for continued habitat management on public lands and cost-share incentives for private landowners wanting to attract elk to their land in the restoration zone. Since 2000, there have been significant habitat improvements on public land in the restoration zone that will benefit elk.

Organizations including the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Appalachian Wildlife Foundation have committed to contributing financial resources and volunteer time to help with elk restoration in Missouri.

Director Robert Ziehmer said the Department has actively engaged citizens and organizations to gather input on elk restoration. “A key component of Missouri’s plan is the defined restoration zone. Given habitat within this zone, the limited number of elk to be released, established health protocols, monitoring commitment and solid citizen/landowner support, implementation will provide natural resource and recreational benefits,” said Ziehmer.

Elk restoration programs in Arkansas, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Tennessee have successfully restored limited elk populations with economic benefits through wildlife viewing and hunting. Jim Smith, owner of Cross Country Trail Ride in Eminence, said restoring elk to the Missouri Ozarks will help his business by extending the tourism season. “The natural beauty, abundant wildlife and crystal-clear streams draw people to the Ozarks. Restoring elk will be an extra attraction.”

Elk are native to the Show-Me State but were gone by the mid-1800s, due to unregulated hunting and habitat changes.

The Department is committed to continuing landscape resource management in the Ozarks for:

  • Natural community restoration and to sustain forest health,
  • Restoration of wildlife habitat for multiple species, and
  • Provide diverse outdoor recreational opportunities for citizens

Factors working to ensure elk will remain in the restoration area:

  • Limited number of elk will be released,
  • Limited area with quality habitat,
  • Elk will be radio collared and closely monitored,
  • Elk in eastern states tend to be nonmigratory and utilize available habitat,
  • 79 percent of the land is open to public access,
  • The Department is committed to addressing elk in unwanted locations outside the restoration zone including harassment techniques, trapping and relocating and/or euthanizing elk, and
  • Hunting is proposed to be implemented as soon as possible after the elk become established

Eminence Gets Conservation Boost

Boaters will have better access to the Current River at Eminence City Park, thanks to a grant from the Conservation Department.

At its August meeting, the Conservation Commission approved $353,846.51 for the cooperative project with the City of Eminence. The grant will pay for a 16-foot-wide concrete boat ramp, a 32-foot-wide concrete canoe ramp, concrete access roads, walkways and parking lots, restrooms and security lighting. The City of Eminence will provide demolition and removal of existing facilities.

Three-quarters of the Conservation Department’s share of project funding will come from the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Program, also known as the Dingell-Johnson Fund. “D-J” money comes from a federal tax on fishing equipment and marine fuels.

The Dingell-Johnson Act of 1950 is similar to the Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937, which established a federal excise tax on firearms and hunting equipment. Hunters and anglers were instrumental in passage of both laws to fund state fisheries and wildlife management programs.

The grant is part of the Conservation Department’s Community Assistance Program (CAP). CAP grants help communities build or improve fishing facilities. For more information about CAP grants, visit http://bit.ly/9lhk1h, or call the nearest Conservation Department regional office.

Sedalia Office is an Energy Star

The Conservation Department’s new office in Sedalia has earned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR Award. It joins the Northeast Regional Office in Kirksville, which received the same recognition earlier this year.

The awards recognize the Conservation Department’s efforts to incorporate energy efficient technologies and practices into facility construction, operation and maintenance. These include geothermal heating, maximizing the use of natural daylight, efficient fluorescent lighting, an outside air recovery unit, window tinting, good insulation and a commitment by staff to practice energy conservation.

To qualify for Energy Star certification, buildings must perform in the top 25 percent of similar facilities nationwide for energy efficiency. The MDC facility joins only 28 other office buildings in Missouri to receive ENERGY STAR designation. Commercial buildings that earn the ENERGY STAR award use an average of 35 percent less energy than typical buildings.

The emphasis on energy efficiency at Conservation Department facilities is consistent with Gov. Jay Nixon’s April 2009 executive order directing state agencies to reduce energy costs by 20 percent by 2018.

Piedmont Man is Logger of the Year

Forest conservation is more than just good business to Logger of the Year Matt L’Heureux; it is a way of life.

L’Heureux’s conservation ethic is so strong he received three logger-of-the-year nominations. MDC foresters in the Poplar Bluff area noted the Piedmont forester’s remarkable ability to move logs around a harvest site without damaging the soil or remaining trees.

“It was an eye-opener to see someone able to maintain normal production with a large grapple skidder and do very little damage to the residual stand,” said Resource Forester Mark Pelton.

Resource Forester Becky Fletcher noted L’Heureux’s careful observance of forestry best management practices, even under the most difficult conditions. As an example, she pointed to L’Heureux’s work on a salvage timber sale at Amidon CA in Madison County. Trees knocked down by high winds made work nearly impossible in some areas, yet the logger of the year met the challenge.

“Matt is very light on the land,” said Fletcher. “He shuts himself down during wet times and has a system for the freeze/thaw cycle. He gets to the site early in the morning and does his skidding until the ground starts to thaw in the sun. Then he parks the skidder and he and his crew chainsaw for the rest of the day. He is very careful about ruts and keeping the roads and skid trails in good condition. One of the roads is now in better condition than when he started.”

Forestry District Supervisor Jason Jensen expressed admiration for L’Heureux‘s skill with a chainsaw.

“He truly understands that how the trees are felled has a direct impact on the amount of residual damage resulting from skidding,” he said.

L’Heureux received his award from Forest Management Chief John Tuttle at the Missouri Forest Products Association (MFPA) meeting at Lake of the Ozarks in June. He received a framed certificate and a Stihl chainsaw.

Candidates for the Logger of the Year Award must have completed the Professional Timber Harvester’s Training Program. For more information, contact the MFPA, 611 East Capitol Ave., Suite 1, Jefferson City, MO 65101, 573-634-3252, moforest@moforest.org, or visit www.moforest.org.

Sight in Deer Rifles on MDC Ranges

You still have time to sight in rifles before the November firearms deer season, and dozens of conservation areas around the state provide safe, legal facilities for this important task. Target shooting on conservation areas is permitted only on approved shooting ranges. The Conservation Department maintains unstaffed shooting ranges on conservation areas in 75 counties and staffed shooting ranges at another five locations. Facilities at unstaffed ranges vary widely. Some are as simple as earthen berms designed to provide safe backstops for shooting. Others are handicap-accessible, have multiple covered shooting benches, target holders and pit privies. To find one near you, visit www.MissouriConservation.org/node/6209.

Federal Funds Provide Share the Harvest Stimulus

Funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), combined with dollars from state and local sponsors, could enable hunters to help feed more than twice as many needy Missourians this year.

Last year, hunters donated more than a quarter million pounds of venison to charities through Share the Harvest (STH). STH programs across the state are organized by local citizens who bring together hunters, charities and meat processors to put lean, high-protein meat on the table for those in need.

In September, Gov. Jay Nixon announced that a portion of Missouri’s ARRA funds will go toward food programs that support low-income children and seniors. Gov. Nixon has made additional tools available to increase the number of meat processors participating in STH, enabling food banks to leverage the federal stimulus money for even greater benefit to needy Missourians.

STH is administered by the Missouri Department of Conservation and the Conservation Federation of Missouri (CFM). Gary Van De Velde, chairman of CFM’s Share the Harvest Committee, said he hopes to increase the number of deer donated through STH to more than half a million pounds this year.

To learn how to donate deer through STH, call 573-634-2322, e-mail mofed@socket.net, or visit www.MissouriConservation.org/node/2544.

8 Plead Guilty in Deer-Dogging Case

Seven men from Doniphan and the surrounding area have entered guilty pleas in a federal case involving a conspiracy to hunt deer illegally in the Mark Twain National Forest with the aid of dogs and all-terrain vehicles. The eight will pay fines ranging from $500 to $1,500.

U.S. District Court documents show the defendants used radio-location dog collars, enabling them to track the location of deer being pursued by the dogs. They also used marine-band radios to evade law enforcement officers by transmitting the locations of Missouri conservation agents and the location of co-defendants, dogs and deer.

Each defendant pleaded guilty to conspiracy to illegally hunt deer in the Mark Twain National Forest by utilizing dogs to assist with the hunt between November 14, 2008, and November 25, 2008, all in violation of 16 U.S.C. §§ 3372(a)(1) and 3373(d) (2). This charge carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and/or fines up to $100,000.

This case was investigated by the Missouri Department of Conservation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Give the Gift of Nature This Year

Looking for holiday gifts with lasting value? Try the Conservation Department’s Nature Shop.

Where else can you get a gift that will delight the eye and inform the mind of outdoorsy loved ones every day of the year? The 2011 Natural Events Calendar does all that and more for just $7, plus shipping and sales tax, where applicable.

Another great buy is Missouri’s Wild Mushrooms: a guide to hunting, identifying and cooking the state’s most common mushrooms. The 185-page, large-format book includes beautiful color photos and detailed information about edibility, habitat and fruiting period of dozens of mushrooms. Also included are mouth-watering recipes and tips for preserving mushrooms. At $14, you will not find a bargain like this anywhere.

For children on your holiday shopping list, check out Show-Me Herps: An uncommonly colorful guide to 50 cool amphibians and reptiles in Missouri. This pocket-sized, 152-page guide has captivating color illustrations of snakes, skinks, lizards, turtles, salamanders, frogs and toads, along with a wealth of information about where and how they live and how they affect people’s daily lives. Few things you can buy for $7.95 are so likely to kindle a lifelong interest in nature.

You can see the full selection of books, greeting cards, DVDs, CDs and more at www.mdcNatureShop.com. If you still have the October Conservationist, check out the Nature Shop section. Order online or by calling toll-free 877-521-8632. Many Nature Shop items also are available at conservation nature centers.

At a loss for a gift for the hunter or angler who has everything? Consider a lifetime permit. The Resident Lifetime Small Game Hunting Permit costs as little as $35 for Missouri hunters age 60 or older. The same permit is an amazing bargain at $275 for Missouri residents age 15 and younger. Lifetime Conservation Partner Permits, which include hunting and fishing privileges, start at $70 for Missouri residents age 60 and older.

Lifetime permits are not available over the counter. For information about how to apply for one, visit www.MissouriConservation.org/8849, call 573-522-4115, ext. 3574, or write to Lifetime Permits, Missouri Department of Conservation. PO Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180.

Deer Hunters: Don’t Move Firewood!

Remember to leave firewood at home when heading out to deer camp. Equally important, do not bring firewood home after hunting or camping. By transporting firewood from place to place, you could spread the emerald ash borer, a devastating forest pest. Instead, buy firewood where you camp and burn it all before returning home. For more information about emerald ash borers and other forest pests, visit www.MissouriConservation.org/node/5606.

Now That is a Hailstorm!

How hard did it hail? It hailed so hard, it killed fish!

Seriously. Severe thunderstorms that swept through the Kansas City Region Sept. 18 dumped so much hail that road crews had to get out snowplows in some areas. Some of the hailstones were bigger than softballs. Most people could understand how Canada geese perished in such a storm, but everyone’s jaws dropped when bass, bluegill, channel catfish and carp in area lakes and ponds went belly up.

Experts say the fish were not clobbered by ice balls but by the sharp temperature drop that occurred when tons of ice dropped from the sky. Fish are sensitive to sudden changes in water temperature, so the big chill alone might have caused the kills.

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