implement ecosystem-based management of the Missouri, Mississippi and White rivers and their floodplains, which focus on natural resource conservation and enhancing recreational opportunities. For example MDC has been able to increase and enhance wetland habitats such as seasonal wetlands and bottomland hardwoods. MDC cooperates with other agencies on the Upper Mississippi River Environmental Management Program for biological monitoring and habitat restoration, and provides input to the Upper Mississippi River Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program, both funded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“Improvements to wetlands at conservation areas, such as Fountain Grove, Eagle Bluffs, Duck Creek, Columbia Bottom and B.K. Leach Memorial, just to name a few, provide critical habitat for resident animals and migratory waterfowl. These areas also provide important recreational value for Missourians,” says Paul Calvert, MDC fisheries division field operations chief.
“Interested landowners and conservation groups have also been instrumental in wetland conservation,” says Calvert. “The Confluence Partnership is an excellent example of the value of partnerships and citizen conservationists in improving fish and wildlife habitats.”
The Confluence Partnership is a team of nonprofit partners, such as the Great Rivers Habitat Alliance and Ducks Unlimited, and a core of 20 cooperating local, state and federal agencies. They have conserved more than 13,000 acres of land near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers to help improve water quality and provide more outdoor recreation opportunities.
CONSERVING WETLANDS THROUGH WRP
Wetlands once made up almost 11 percent of the state’s presettlement acres, or 4.8 million acres. Today, wetlands cover close to 850,000 acres in Missouri, up from less than 640,000 acres, thanks to several restoration programs available to landowners. The Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) is considered the nation’s premiere wetland restoration program, having vastly increased and improved our country’s wetlands.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) administers the WRP program. Beginning in 1995, wetland emphasis teams made up of NRCS and MDC personnel were developed to assist landowners with all aspects of their wetland management plans.
“This blend of expertise is why Missouri is one of the top five states in the nation for restoring wetlands,” says Kevin Dacey, Missouri NRCS state office natural resource specialist and WRP coordinator. “Missouri’s success is proven in the numbers. Almost 900 WRP tracts cover 137,000 acres of restored wetlands.”
“There are numerous benefits from wetland restoration,” says Dacey. “Wetlands are like sponges during floods. They