the Orears pointed to disappearing landmarks on an aerial map of the area.
“This used to be a lake, just a quarter of a mile from here,” says one, “an old river slough that oxbowed around.”
“Kind of a swamp, as I recall,” someone else puts in.
“I can remember my dad talking about how when the ducks would get up it would just be a cloud, like on a wildlife area. I’m sure they would have hunted there.”
Mike Orear, 61, can recall hunting spots that no longer exist.
“There was a few more sloughs and water holes out in the fields back in the ’60s than there is now,” he says. “I remember one family that they said picked a wagonload of mushrooms one spring.”
If the image of a wagonload of morels doesn’t make you yearn for the good old days, nothing will.
Wetland Reserve Program
Efforts to restore Missouri’s lost wetland legacy are not confined to public areas. The Conservation Department, in cooperation with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), also helps private landowners who are interested in creating or enhancing wetland habitat. Landowners have enrolled 8,755 acres in the Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) along a 60-mile stretch of the Missouri River near the historic White’s Island Resort. This federal farm bill program offers owners of flood-prone acreage cash in return for wetland easements, while allowing them to retain ownership of their land. To learn more about WRP, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/wrp/, or call the nearest NRCS office.
Creation of large state-owned wetland areas began in earnest in the 1950s. Fountain Grove Conservation Area (CA), located on the Grand River about 25 miles north of Grand Pass, was in the vanguard of this effort. So were Duck Creek CA in southeastern Missouri, Ted Shanks CA near Hannibal, and Montrose and Schell-Osage CAs in southwest Missouri.
The levees, wells, water pipes and other infrastructure of managed wetlands eventually wear out or become obsolete as new methods, materials and designs develop. When Missouri’s original wetland areas turned 50, the Conservation Department launched the Golden Anniversary Wetland Initiative to renovate its five oldest managed wetland areas. That decade-long effort is well underway.
The initiative will keep the gems in the Show-Me State’s wetland and waterfowl-hunting crown productive for many years to come. Partners in the effort include the University of Missouri, Ducks Unlimited, the Missouri Waterfowl Association, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, the North American Wetlands Conservation Council, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Kansas City Power & Light Company.