Nature in the Neighborhood
grant to kill the existing turf grass and replant the acre with native Missouri grasses and forbs. Three years later, a bright and thriving prairie sits next to the church, buzzing with pollinators, soaking up runoff, and thriving even in the hot, dry summer of 2012. “The project would likely not have gotten beyond the visioning stage without a grant from MDC,” says Paul. “We see the prairie not as where our congregation’s ground ends, but where our role as stewards of creation begins.”
For many city residents, spending time outdoors means playing soccer or walking with the dog down concrete neighborhood paths. There is nothing wrong with this, but it is important to have more opportunities for urban residents to connect with Missouri’s natural heritage. Imagine there was a rain garden downhill from the soccer field, soaking up the runoff from the turf, filtering out some of the fertilizer that keep the field thick and green. Imagine there was a patch of warm-season grasses and forbs along the walkway in a previously mowed section of a park. Imagine if those soccer players and morning dog walkers could enjoy the birds and creatures and other sights of nature, as well as the practical services. These projects could make a difference in maintaining the health and diversity of our urban habitats and even influence perceptions of why conservation measures are important— large and small, rural and urban.
I see it as an important component of my job as an urban wildlife biologist to hold this optimism close, to cultivate it wherever I find it in volunteers and organizations who care about resources, who want to get their hands dirty and donate some sweat to urban conservation. If we make conservation relevant and valuable to urban residents, in their own neighborhoods, then we are accomplishing something great for fish, forest, and wildlife resources of the entire state. And that’s exactly what MDC is trying to accomplish through the Community Stewardship Grant Program, which supports partner efforts to improve urban wildlife habitat.
The Department plans continued support for the Community Stewardship Grant Program in St. Louis and recently expanded the program to the metropolitan areas of Kansas City and Springfield.
For more information about the Community Stewardship Grant Program, eligibility, and how to apply for funds, visit the MDC website at mdc.mo.gov/node/7175.
The Community Stewardship Program
Over the first six years of the program (FY07–FY12), MDC awarded a total of 47 projects in the St. Louis metro area. Through these projects we partnered with 95 organizations and agencies. Collectively these partners have contributed $616,701 in matching funds and resources, including 12,510 volunteer hours on project planning, installation, and maintenance. On-the-ground accomplishments include the restoration or habitat improvement of 197 acres of forest, 24 acres of wetland, 186 acres of prairie/grassland, 5,600 feet of stream bank, 4 acres glade, and one cave.