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Published on: Jul. 20, 2011

Little Bourbeuse River

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Herman Merkel and Rob Pulliam

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to use all of their space.

Water Quality and Conservation

When livestock frequent a waterway, it degrades water quality. Manure and urine end up in the creek, and the constant pressure of heavy hooves erodes banks. When banks collapse, the sediment load increases, and the insects and invertebrates that make up the bottom of the food chain start to disappear.

The problem isn’t new, but it has taken its toll over time. In 2001, the scaleshell mussel was listed as an endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The small freshwater mussel was once found throughout the eastern U.S. but is now found in only 14 rivers in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri, including the Bourbeuse. But what was bad for the scaleshell was good for conservation funding.

“It’s a major advantage to have endangered species because money becomes available,” Flores said. “We want to keep this species in the rivers and we don’t want it to go extinct.”

Water systems, crossings and fences help decrease stress on the streams and benefit fragile species like the scaleshell mussel. By matching landowners with programs like Fishers and Farmers, Flores and Pulliam help pay for projects that would otherwise be prohibitively expensive.

“When I worked with a landowner I didn’t have a mountain of paperwork for them to sign,” Flores said. “I had a single-page contract. I could say ‘here’s how much money I have. It’s a 90-percent cost share, and here’s how much you’re going to get back.’ And they got it back. That’s really what built the trust. We did what we said we were going to do.”

Extraordinary Actions

Dave Dunn runs an operation similar to Merkel’s and lives nearby. A mile-long branch of the Boone River runs through Dunn’s property and is now completely fenced off after he built a watering system on his property. Dunn now serves on the landowner committee and is a champion of the Fishers and Farmers Partnership and the work Flores and Pulliam helped fund.

“The most important thing about it is that people who own the land and the people who have an interest in wildlife need to work together. It’s one of the programs where they can,” Dunn said. “What made it work here was that our contacts with Department of Conservation were sensible and recognized where our needs came together.”

In April 2010, the Conservation Department and the Lower Bourbeuse Landowner Committee received national recognition through the National Fish Habitat Action Plan. At a conference in Washington D.C., Flores accepted the award for Extraordinary Action in support of Fish Habitat Conservation along with Bob and Nicky Baker of the landowner committee.

Pulliam said he sees his job as helping farmers achieve business goals that benefit the land. “There’s no way I’m going to be successful at my job if I don’t understand the business of my target audience,” he said. “We have to find the products and services that help our goals, but it has to help them reach their goals as well.

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