and levee work at Ten Mile Pond CA.
The Department also works to improve access to the outdoors in other ways. “More Missourians enjoy the outdoors because of MDC’s managed hunts and the construction of disabled-accessible docks, hunting blinds and trails,” says Darrow. “Special hunting and fishing events for people with limited mobility provide additional opportunities for people of all ages to pursue outdoor activities and to learn first-hand about conservation.”
Missouri’s Crown Jewels
Another way the Department works to steward Missouri’s forest, fish and wildlife resources is by conserving the best remaining examples of Missouri’s rich and varied forests, woodlands, savannas, prairies, glades, cliffs, wetlands, caves, springs, streams and rivers. This effort began in 1970. Today, the state more than 180 designated natural areas in the Missouri Natural Areas Program, totaling 72,060 acres.
“The success of the Natural Areas program is due to an outstanding conservation partnership between MDC, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the Mark Twain National Forest, the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and The Nature Conservancy,” says Michael Leahy, MDC natural areas coordinator. “These organizations have come together with the common goal of conserving the natural communities of Missouri for the enjoyment and benefit of today’s citizens and future generations.”
These habitats support many native plant and animal species. Missouri natural areas provide habitat for more than 350 Missouri species of conservation concern, including endangered species such as the Niangua darter and the western prairie fringed orchid. Designated natural areas also conserve multitudes of species that are not endangered but are uncommon due to habitat loss. In this way, natural areas help to keep species off of the endangered species list by ensuring these plants and animals have the habitat they need.
Designated natural areas help connect us to our outdoor heritage. They provide opportunities for many forms of outdoor recreation, including hiking, nature photography, bird watching, nature study, hunting and fishing. Learn more about natural areas at mdc.mo.gov/node/2453. Or, purchase Discover Missouri Natural Areas: A Guide to 50 Great Places, available at MDC conservation nature centers statewide (see Page 7) and at mdcnatureshop.com.
MDC Partners with Communities
In addition to actively managing the state’s conservation areas to benefit people and wildlife, MDC also partners with communities to improve access to the out- doors, especially fishing. Since 1981, the Department’s Community Assistance Program has provided close-tohome fishing opportunities throughout the