by Dan, inspired her to enter graduate school and change careers. After earning a M.S. in forestry in 2006, she began her current position, which includes managing the ground flora study of the Missouri Ozark Forest Ecosystem Project, an MDC-run, 100-year, 9,000-acre timber management experiment.
Diamond in the Rough
When looking for land, the only conditions Dan and Susan had for prospective sites were that it be more than 80 acres and be located between Eminence and Peck Ranch, an MDC conservation area in northern Carter County where Dan worked at the time. There weren’t too many properties that fit this requirement, says Dan. But Blooming Paradise turned out to be the proverbial jewel in the rough. The property’s east edge borders Pioneer Forest, a sustainably harvested private forest, which added to the property’s initial allure. “Your enjoyment of your property is accelerated by the integrity of your neighbor’s property,” says Dan—a wisdom he and Susan applied. While scouting a section of the land one day soon after buying it, Dan found what would become known as “Blazing Star Glade.” He called Susan excitedly, he remembers, “We’ve got a glade! We’ve got a glade!” It wouldn’t be the only one.
Landowners manage land in different ways depending on what they want it to do: feed cows, grow hay, support wildlife for hunting, develop timber for eventual harvest, raise crops, etc. Dan and Susan’s motivation, given that they have full-time jobs that support them financially, is unusual for private landowners. Their goal is to preserve and restore the greatest amount of native biodiversity that belongs on the property. They use their considerable expertise and knowledge of Ozark ecology (and that of their vast network of colleagues) to determine the context of this belonging—how and where to perform which restoration practice. Since they bought their property, they have undertaken glade and woodland restoration, cool-to warm-season grass conversion, timber stand improvement, erosion repair, wildlife food-plot establishment and prescribed burning.
Most of Dan and Susan’s land work has involved participation in federal and state cost share programs. Cost-share programs offer incentives for private landowners to manage their land in ways that coincide with conservation objectives: erosion control, wildlife habitat improvement, etc. Recognizing that true ecosystem health is met by improving land over vast landscapes, state and federal organizations developed cost-share programs to encourage private landowner work that enhances work done on adjacent public land.