Putting Down Roots
the L-A-D Foundation,” says Mike Leahy, MDC natural areas coordinator. “Since the early 1970s, the Foundation has been a key partner with the Department, as well as with Missouri State Parks, the Mark Twain National Forest, the Ozark National Scenic Riverways and The Nature Conservancy, in protecting the state’s natural heritage. From Greer Spring and Grand Gulf to Hickory Canyons, the L-A-D Foundation has helped protect some of the best natural features in the state.”
In all, the L-A-D Foundation leases seven Missouri Natural Areas to MDC, totaling more than 2,000 acres. Four additional Missouri Natural Areas are located on L-A-D’s Pioneer Forest. One of these, Current River Natural Area, was also the first Missouri area to be recognized by the Society of American Foresters Natural Areas program back in 1955, pre-dating the Missouri Natural Areas Program. It is remarkable for its stand of large white oak trees, some more than 400 years old.
Two of L-A-D’s Missouri Natural Areas pay special tribute to highly respected Conservation Department staff. Charles Callison, editor of the Missouri Conservationist in the 1940s, and later a well-known national leader with the Audubon Society, is remembered at Rocky Hollow Natural Area in Monroe County where he grew up. Allen Brohn, an assistant director of the Conservation Department during the 1970s and 1980s, is remembered at Hickory Canyons Natural Area, which he helped establish while serving as chairman of the Missouri Natural Areas Committee.
A Legacy of Greater Good
Most L-A-D Foundation land is within the Current River Conservation Opportunity Area, a geographic region rich in native plants and animals and their habitats. But L-A-D staff also works with the Department wherever they can to protect less common plants and animals in caves and on glades, fens and in sinkholes. For example, in Perry County, Department staff has begun long-term work on Foundation land to restore a sample of grassy woodland on the Perry County Karst Plain, which will better protect groundwater resources associated with Ball Mill Resurgence Natural Area and Blue Spring Branch. This karst plain has more and longer caves than anywhere else in Missouri. It is an especially important effort because there is relatively little public land in this area. This work is already being used as a demonstration site for teachers and landowners.
As long as 40 years ago, Drey suggested that Pioneer Forest land could be considered as habitat for large native mammals. Today, that expansive area has become part of the range of the elk reintroduced to Missouri after being gone for 150 years. If you talk with L-A-D’s staff, they will tell you that black bears never left Pioneer Forest.
The conservation partnership between MDC and the L-A-D Foundation has been long and productive, and Missourians can look forward to additional success stories for Missouri forests, woodlands and rivers in the years ahead. For more information on the L-A-D Foundation, visit ladfoundation.org. Learn more about Missouri’s natural areas program at mdc.mo.gov/node/2453.