Land use for the Current River watershed
Historic Land Cover/Land Use
Historical land cover within the uplands of the Current River Watershed primarily consisted of pine and mixed pine/oak woodland with an open understory of grasses and shrubs (MDC 1997a). Occasional prairie and savanna openings were also common in some areas. Land cover of the sideslopes consisted of oak and oak/pine forests with occasional glade and woodland type openings associated with exposed slopes and ridges having shallow soils. Valley bottom land cover consisted of mixed hardwood forest with occasional fen openings.
The Ozarks are believed to have first been explored approximately 14,000 years ago by semi nomadic Native American tribes which subsisted as hunters and foragers (Rafferty 1980, Jacobson and Primm 1994). Approximately 1000 B.C., tribes on the fringes of the Ozarks became less nomadic, existing in more permanent villages and incorporating agricultural practices as a means of subsistence. Tribes in the Ozarks interior did not begin adopting these practices until A.D. 900.By A.D. 1500 this culture had disappeared as large agricultural based villages began to grow along the eastern fringe of the Ozarks and along the Mississippi River. During this period the interior of the Ozarks was used primarily as a seasonal hunting ground as well as a source for flint and chalcedony (a type of quartz) for making tools. It is believed that a climatic shift to cooler, drier summers and the resulting failure of maize crops on which early agriculture was based, may have caused an abrupt abandonment of the larger villages. Remnants of these villages and tribes reassembled to form the Osage Tribe which existed throughout much of the Ozarks and was present as European settlement of the area began to occur in the late 1700s and early 1800s (Jacobson and Primm 1994). Native American use of fire, as well as naturally occurring incidences of fire (i.e. lightening strikes), are believed to have been a large factor in determining the types of vegetation found by Schoolcraft and others as exploration of the Ozarks interior began to occur after the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. Native Americans are believed to have set fires for many reasons including harassment of enemies as well as an aid in hunting. These fires stimulated warm-season grasses such as bluestem and eliminated woody undergrowth thus creating open woodlands or savannas.
European settlement of the Ozark fringe began in the early 1700,s under French and, later, Spanish political control. After the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, American settlers began settling the same areas earlier occupied by the Spanish and French. The Osage, in treaty with the federal government, relinquished claims to much of the Ozarks interior in 1808, although they refused to relinquish their hunting rights in this area (Rafferty 1980). Settlement of the Ozarks Interior increased after the war of 1812 (Jacobson and Primm 1994). Many of the early settlers came from states such as Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee (Rafferty 1983). Most of these states were previously considered the frontier prior to the Louisiana Purchase, thus many settlers brought along skills they had learned for survival in frontier territory. Early settlers subsisted by hunting and fishing as well as maintaining gardens in the small bottomland areas which they cleared. In addition early settlers raised livestock which grazed on the open range of the slopes and uplands in the summer. In the winter livestock were fed from forage crops cultivated and harvested from the bottom lands (Jacobson and Primm 1994). The annual practice of burning was continued by early settlers in order to enhance the livestock forage of the uplands. In addition to the influx of settlers of European origin which occurred after the war of 1812, Native American tribes such as the Cherokee, Shawnee, and Delaware, which had been displaced from the East, began moving through the region (Jacobson and Primm 1994). As the population of the area increased, more settlers were forced to settle the uplands (Ryan and Smith 1991). Fenced pasture began to replace the practice of open range. These two factors reduced the use of fire on the uplands, thus decreasing the grassland and savanna type land cover (Ryan and Smith 1991; Jacobson and Primm 1994). This region was only sparsely settled until the late 1800's, when the economic values of the vast timber resources were discovered.
The virgin forests of the Ozarks remained relatively undisturbed by logging until the late 1800s (Cunningham and Hauser 1989). Part of the reason for this was due to the rugged nature of the topography which made railroad construction (one of the main means of lumber transport) a less feasible proposition than in other less rugged areas of the country. However, as the forest resources of the Eastern United States were depleted and more settlers began moving onto the sparsely forested western plains, the demand for lumber in the Ozarks increased. Undoubtedly, the cheap price of land having uncut timber was also very attractive to eastern speculators. In some instances uncut timber land often sold for $1.00 an acre (Cunningham and Hauser 1989). This led to the construction of railroads in the region in the 1800s. Initially, the distribution of the first extensive commercial timber cutting in the Ozarks was limited by the distribution of shortleaf pine and transportation routes provided by rivers and railroads (Jacobson and Primm 1994). Shortly thereafter, however, the exploitation of hardwood species began.Larger shortleaf pine trees were harvested for lumber, while a variety of sizes of hardwood trees were harvested for products such as railroad ties, charcoal, barrel staves, and flooring (Rafferty 1983, Cunningham and Hauser 1989). The pine lumber and railroad tie industry were very prevalent within the area surrounding the Current River. The many different products produced from the timber of the area resulted in a wide range of species and sizes harvested. The population of the area sprang up as did several lumber towns including some within or bordering the Current River Watershed such as West Eminence, Birch Tree, Grandin, Midco, and Winona.
Initially, the Current River was used as a major transport route for loose logs and ties. Ties and logs were transported to yards or slides all along the Current River (Cunningham 1990). At the appropriate time, usually early summer, logs and ties were slid off steep bluffs into the river. They were then floated to the takeout points of Vanburen and Doniphan where booms, which extended two thirds of the way across the river, were used to catch the logs and ties. Large volumes of loose ties and logs often proved to be a nuisance as well as a danger for persons who lived in the area. Loose ties were often hazardous to persons crossing the river and in some instances completely prevented persons from crossing the river at fords. In addition, log and tie jams were, in some instances, so severe as to block river flow and cause flooding in some low lying areas. These problems had the effect of increasing negative public opinion against the floating of loose ties and logs. In 1915, the assistant secretary of war issued regulations limiting the size of tie and log drives. In light of the new regulations, many operators were forced to begin rafting ties and logs. This was accomplished by nailing the ties or rafts together with strips of lumber. Rafting logs and ties had their own associated problems. The failure of a raft to negotiate a bend in the river in some instances meant disaster. In addition, members of the Izaak Walton league began blaming tie rafts for the poor quality of the sport fishery caused by the destruction of bass spawning beds. This prompted several major lumber companies to halt tie and log rafting during the April 15-June 1 spawning season.
Along with the eastern-backed lumber companies came the logging practices that had decimated much of the forests of the Eastern United States. These "cut and get out" operations, as they have been referred to in Cunningham and Hauser (1989), paid little or no attention to forest regeneration; focusing only on feeding the gigantic lumber mills located in the area. The mills at Grandin, Missouri were capable of consuming 70 acres of forest a day (MDC 1991). With little or no attempt to reforest cut-over areas, land which had previously been dominated by pine and mixed pine-oak forest began to regenerate to thick oak sprouts (Nigh 1988).
As the logging industry began to decline in the area, residents turned increasingly toward farming the rugged cut-over land in an attempt to eke out a means of survival. Initially row crop farming was attempted in some areas. This is exemplified by a peak occurring between 1899 and 1920 in the acres of corn harvested within the major counties of the Current River Watershed as shown in Figure Lu01. This type of land use would have undoubtedly contributed to erosion and thus sedimentation and an increased gravel load in the streams of the regions watersheds such as the Current River.In addition, lumber companies as well as land speculators, eager to dispose of taxable cut-over land, began to offer the land for sale through nationwide advertising (Rafferty 1983; Cunningham and Hauser 1989). In many instances the land was advertised as being more productive than what it actually was.
As the century progressed, much of the area was found to be unsuitable for large scale row-cropping. Figure Lu01 shows the relatively rapid decline of acres harvested of corn in Carter, Dent, Ripley, Shannon and Texas Counties. In many counties of the Ozarks, livestock populations experienced sharp increases as row cropping declined. In contrast, with the exception of Texas County, there appears to have been no substantial increase of cattle and hog populations in any of the major counties of the Current River Watershed relative to other counties in the region (Figure Lu02).Livestock numbers in Ripley and Shannon County experienced sporadic growth and decline between 1920 and 1980. In contrast, the livestock populations of Carter County remained relatively stable from 1920 to 1997. Livestock population trends in Dent County resembled those of Texas County from 1920 to 1980. However, Dent County livestock populations never experienced as explosive a rate of growth.
The era of natural resource management began in the Current River Watershed in the early portion of the century. In 1909, an exploratory trip was undertaken by a group of interested persons headed by Missouri Governor Hadley (Kohler and Schuchard 1984). This trip brought the area to statewide attention and inspired a 50 year debate regarding the Current River Basin and its resources. The debate centered around whether the streams and surrounding area should be preserved, used as a recreational development, or dammed for hydroelectric power. Tourism began to be more prevalent in the area; and between 1920 and 1930 the state of Missouri began development of parks at Big Spring, Round Spring, and Montauk (Kohler and Schuchard 1984). In the early 1930s, the USFS began purchasing land in the Current River/Jacks Fork area (Kohler and Schuchard 1984). Initial natural resource development was accomplished by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a work program of the Great Depression, under the guidance of the United States Forest Service (USFS). Much of this work involved pine reforestation (Kohler and Schuchard 1984). The USFS also attempted to educate local landowners regarding reforestation. In addition, creation of the Missouri Department of Conservation in 1936 provided for more intensive management of the area's fish and wildlife resources. It also provided additional opportunities for working with private landowners regarding natural resource management on private lands. In the meantime the debate over conservation vs. exploitation of the areas resources continued. Talk of impounding portions of the Current River continued to be the focus of this debate through the early 1950s at which time President Truman created the Arkansas-Red-White River Basin Interagency Committee for the purpose of a flood control survey (Kohler and Schuchard 1984). The committee's work resulted in the recommendation that the streams of the basin not only not be impounded but should be "preserved in their natural states" (Kohler and Schuchard 1984). This lead to the report entitled "Plan for the Preservation and Development of Recreation Resources -Current and Eleven Point River Country, Missouri ". Many in the Ozarks were deeply divided over the recommendations of the report. Public hearings were held which often involved heated debate regarding the proposal of the report (Kohler and Schuchard 1984). The Missouri House of Representatives passed a resolution in 1959 requesting the United States Congress create a national recreation area along the Current and Eleven Point Rivers. Initial legislation was drafted by the National Park Service. Still, those opposed insisted on additional research of the idea. President Eisenhower signed a bill allocating funding for research of the area in 1959. The results of the research suggested the inclusion of the Current and Jacks Fork Rivers in a national monument. Compromises were made after the first attempt at legislation creating the "Ozark Rivers National Monument " failed. Then in 1963, legislation establishing the "Ozark National River " was introduced. Further compromise was agreed to in which only land along the Current and Jacks Fork River would be included in the park and the bill creating the "Ozark National Scenic Riverways" was passed in both the House of Representatives and Senate. The bill was signed into law by President Johnson in 1964 with the purchase of land beginning in 1966. The legislation, aimed at preserving an American river system with the creation of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, was the first of its kind (Kohler and Schuchard 1984). It paved the way for the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968. The Ozark National Scenic Riverways was dedicated in 1972.
In an effort to determine the effects of land use changes on stream disturbance in the Ozark Region, Jacobson and Primm (1994) evaluated present (1993) conditions of Ozark streams, pre-settlement period historical descriptions, stratigraphic observations, and accounts of oral-history responses on river changes during the last 90 years for the Jacks Fork River and Little Piney Creek Watersheds. This led Jacobson and Primm (1994) to the conclusion that Ozark streams are disturbed from their natural conditions. Jacobson and Primm (1994) state that this "disturbance has been characterized by accelerated aggradation of gravel, especially in formerly deep pools, accelerated channel migration and avulsion, and growth of gravel point bars". Jacobson and Primm (1994) also suggest that "land use changes have disturbed parts of the hydrologic or sediment budgets or both".
As part of the effort to determine the effects Jacobson and Primm (1994) summarized the land use changes from pre-settlement conditions to the 1970's in the Jack's Fork Watershed which drains into the Current River Watershed (Table Lu01).
Different types of land use have taken place on different parts of the landscape, and at different times, resulting in a complex series of potential disturbances. Uplands have been subjected to suppression of a natural regime of wildfire, followed by logging, annual burning to support open range, patchy and transient attempts at cropping, a second wave of timber cutting, and most recently, increased grazing intensity. Valley side slopes have been subjected to logging, annual burning, and a second wave of logging. Valley bottoms were the first areas to be settled, cleared, and farmed; removal of riparian vegetation decreased the erosional resistance of the bottom lands. More recently, some areas of bottomland have been allowed to grow back into forest. The net effects of this complex series of land-use changes are difficult to determine and separate from natural variability."
Jacobson and Primm (1994) offer the following observations which summarize the probable, qualitative changes to runoff, soil erosion, and riparian erosional resistance on parts of the Ozarks landscape relative to man's impact (Table Lu02):
1.Initial settlement of the Ozarks may have initiated moderate channel disturbance because ofdecreased erosional resistance of cleared bottom lands. This trend would have beencountered by decreased annual runoff and storm runoff that accompanied fire suppressionin the uplands.
2.Because of low-impact skidding methods and selective cutting during initial logging for pine during the Timber-boom period, logging would have had minimal effects on runoff and soil erosion. Low-impact methods and selective cutting continued to be the norm in timber harvesting of hardwoods until the late 1940's, when mechanization and diversified markets for wood products promoted more intensive cutting. Locally, log and tie jams, tie slides, and logging debris may have added to channel instability by diverting flow, but because aggradation and instability also occurred on streams not used for floating timber, these factors were not necessary to create channel disturbance.
3.Significant channel disturbance probably began in the Timber-boom period because of continued clearing of bottom land forests and road building in the riparian zone. This hypothesis is supported by evidence that significant stream disturbance began before the peak of upland destabilization in the post-timber-boom period. Extreme floods during 1895 to 1915 may have combined with lowered erosional thresholds on bottom lands to produce the initial channel disturbance.
4.The regional practice of annual burning to maintain open range had the most potential to increase annual and storm runoff and soil erosion because of its considerable areal extent and repeated occurrence. Burning would have been most effective in increasing runoff and erosion on the steep slopes that had been recently cut over during the timber boom. Generally, accelerated soil erosion was not observed after burning, and relict gullies presently (1993) are not apparent on valley-side slopes and uplands. These observations support the hypothesis that burning did not produce substantial quantities of sediment.
5.The greatest potential for soil erosion on valley slopes and upland areas occurred during the post-timber-boom period when marginal upland areas were cultivated for crops. Accelerated erosion of plowed fields was observed and noted by oral-history respondents and by soil scientists working in the Ozarks during the post-timber-boom period.
6.Valley bottoms have the longest history of disturbance from their natural condition because they were the first to be settled, cleared, and farmed. The lowered resistance to stream erosion that results from removing or thinning riparian woodland would have been a significant factor, especially on small to medium sized streams for which bank stability and roughness provided by trees are not overwhelmed by discharge. Disturbance of bottom land riparian forest increased as free-range grazing, crop production, and use of valley bottoms for transportation expanded and reached a peak in the post-timber-boom period. Headward extension of the channel network because of loss of riparian vegetation may have increased conveyance of the channel network (and hence flood peaks downstream) and removed gravel from storage in first and second order valleys at accelerated rates. This hypothesis is supported by a lack of other source areas for gravel and by observations that gravel came from small stream valleys, not off the slopes.
7.During present (1993) conditions, channel instability seems somewhat decreased in areas where the riparian woodland has recovered, but stability is hampered by high sedimentation rates because of large quantities of gravel already in transport and effects of instability in upstream reaches that lack a riparian corridor.
8.Land use statistics indicate that the present trend in the rural Ozarks is toward increased populations of cattle and increased grazing density. This trend has the potential to continue the historical stream-channel disturbance by increasing storm runoff and sediment supply and thus remobilization of sediment already in transit.
Human populations of the major counties (Carter, Dent, Ripley, Shannon, and Texas) of the Current River Watershed experienced little or no net growth between 1900 and 1990 (Figure Lu03)(OSEDA 1998). In reality all counties, with the exception of Dent, experienced net declines in population during this time period. Carter and Shannon Counties experienced the most substantial declines in population with decreases of 17.8% and 32.3% respectively.
The 1990 human population within the Current River Watershed was estimated to be 24,890 persons (Blodgett J. and CIESIN 1996). Population density in 1990 was approximately 9 persons per square mile as compared to the overall population density for Missouri which was approximately 73 persons per square mile (Figure Lu04). Of course, one must take into account the effect of the states urban centers on this estimate.
Projections of human population increase of Missouri counties have been calculated by the Missouri Office of Administration (MOA), Division of Budget and Planning for three different projection scenarios in a report entitled "Projections of the Population of Missouri Counties By Age, Gender, and Race: 1990 to 2020" (MOA 1994). Combined population estimates for Butler, Carter, Dent, Howell, Ripley Reynolds, Shannon, and Texas Counties from 1990-2020 have been used to calculate percent increase in population for all three scenarios. The difference in scenarios is based on calculated long-term, recent, and zero migration. The scenarios project a combined population increase of 6.4%, 16.6%, and 6.7% respectively by the year 2020.
The Ecological Classification System (ECS) is a management tool which provides a means of "describing distribution of current and potential natural resources in a manner that considers land capability upfront" using a knowledge of landform, geology, soils, and vegetation patterns (MDC 1997a).There are several levels of classification within the ECS. For purposes of this document the three lowest levels are dealt with. These levels are, in descending order, section, subsection, and land type association (LTA). The Current River Watershed intersects two sections, 4 subsections and 18 LTAs.
The sections intersected by the Current River Watershed include the Ozark Highlands Section and the Mississippi Alluvial Basin. The Ozark Highlands Section consists of very old and highly weathered plateaus which, coupled with its physiographic diversity and central geographic location relative to the continent, has created a region of unique ecosystems harboring many endemic species (MDC 1997a). Most of the watershed occurs within this section. Only a relatively small portion of the watershed occurs within the Mississippi Alluvial Basin Section. This section consists of "flat, weakly to moderately dissected alluvial plains" (USFS 1994). Overall, approximately 90% of this section has been ditched and drained for agricultural use.
The subsections intersected by Current River Watershed include the Current River Hills, Central Plateau, Black River Ozark Border, and the White and Black River Alluvial Basin (Figure Lu05).
The Current River Hills Subsection
The Current River Hills Subsection is described within the MDC Ozark Region Resource Inventory (1997a) as encompassing "the hilly to rugged lands associated with the Current, Jacks Fork, and Eleven Point River Valleys. These Valleys have primarily cut through Roubidoux sandstone/dolomite, and Gasconade or Eminence dolomites. Soils are mainly deep and very cherty, but vary in depth, amount of chert and depth to clays. Original vegetation consisted largely of oak and oak-pine woodland and forest with scattered glades and savannas. Streams are both losing and gaining. Gaining reaches are often spring-fed and moderate to relatively high gradient (MDC 1997a).
The Central Plateau Subsection
The Central Plateau Subsection "represents the high, flat to gently rolling plains that are the least eroded remnant of the Salem Plateau. Underlain primarily by Jefferson City-Cotter dolomites or Roubidoux sandstone/dolomite, the plains are often mantled in a thin layer of loess and have droughty soils. Streams are mainly intermittent, low gradient headwater streams that are often losing. Savannas and woodlands were originally the dominant vegetation types" (MDC 1997a).
The Black River Ozark Border
The Black River Ozark Border "Flanks the Current River Hills and the St. Francis Knobs and basins on their southeast and is adjacent to the Bootheel. It is a flat to moderately hilly landscape underlain by the Roubidoux Formation with valleys cutting into the cherty Gasconade Dolomite. A blanket of loess covers most of the flatter elevated surfaces, increasing in depth toward the Bootheel. The subsection historically supported both oak and pine-oak woodland and forest, and is still largely timbered today" (Nigh 1999).
White and Black River Alluvial Basin
The White and Black River Alluvial Basin "occupies the lowlands west of Crowleys Ridge." (Nigh 1999). This subsection intersects a relatively small portion of the Current River Watershed in the watersheds Southeast corner.
Land Type Associations (LTAs) represent the smallest level of the three levels previously mentioned (Figure Lu05). LTAs intersecting the Current River Watershed include the following:
•Ash Hill Low Sand Hills and Terraces
•Black River Silty Lowland
•Black River Oak-Pine Woodland/Forest Hills
•Current River Oak-Pine Woodland/Forest Hills
•Current River Oak Forest Breaks
•Current-Eleven Point Pine-Oak Woodland Dissected Plain
•Eleven Point River Oak-Pine Woodland/Forest Hills
•Eminence Igneous Glade/Oak Forest Knobs
•Flatwoods Oak Savanna/Woodland Plain
•Grandin Pine-Oak Woodland Dissected Plain
•Licking Oak Savanna/Woodland Plain
•Little Piney Oak Woodland Dissected Plain
•Ripley County Oak Woodland Dissected Plain
•Salem Oak Savanna/Woodland Plain
•Southeastern Oak Savanna/Woodland
•Summersville Oak Savanna/Woodland Plain
•Upper Meramec Oak Woodland Dissected Plain
•Upper Gasconade Oak Woodland Dissected Plain
Table Lu03 gives descriptions of LTAs within the watershed.
The Ecological Classification System could prove to be a useful tool for planning and implementing management activities by providing an indication of what natural resource management options will be more adapted to specific areas thus increasing the success of management decisions as well as helping to ensure that management decisions are ecologically enhancing.
Current Land Cover
Approximately 80.1% of the Current River Watershed is forested based on analysis of MoRAP (1999) Missouri Land Cover data. Grassland is the second most prevalent land cover accounting for about 16.0% of the total watershed area. The land cover categories of wetland and water each account for approximately 0.2% of the watershed area, while the categories of cropland and urban account for approximately 0.1% each of the total watershed area (Table Lu04, Figures Lu06 and Lu07). Forest cover is the most dominant land cover type in all eleven digit hydrologic units within the watershed. The Upper Middle Current River unit has the highest percentage of forest cover at 95.9%, while the Little Black River unit has the lowest at 54.9%. This unit also has, by far, the largest percentages of grassland and cropland at 26.1% and 17.7% respectively.
Soil and Water Conservation Projects
There currently are no SALT, SALT AgNPS, or EARTH projects within the Current River Watershed. In addition, no 319 soil projects exist within the Watershed (Shannon , personal communication). Four PL-566 project watersheds have existed within the watershed (NRCS 2001). The Pike Creek and Black Creek PL-566 Watersheds are 93,032 acres and 4,720 acres respectively. Both watershed projects are listed as terminated or not active with no impoundments having been built. The Upper and Lower Little Black River PL-566 Watersheds are 124,749 and 124,390 acres respectively. In the Upper Little Black, 12 impoundments have been built with drainage areas ranging between 786 and 8,944 acres and pool sizes ranging from 11 to 70 acres. One impoundment has been built in the Lower Little Black. This structure has a drainage area of 9,597 acres and a pool area of 80 acres. The Upper and Lower Little Black Watershed Projects have not been closed out, however no future work is anticipated (Deckard, personal communication) (Figure Lu08).
A knowledge of land ownership within a watershed is an important key to understanding various characteristics of a watershed as well as addressing watershed related issues and concerns. Within the Current River Watershed, approximately 32% (420,576 acres) of land is under public ownership (Table Lu05 and Figure Lu09). The United States Forest Service (USFS) holds the largest amount of publicly owned land totaling 235,279 acres. This is followed by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC)(141,270 acres), National Park Service (NPS)(42,605 acres) and Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) (1,332 acres). The public land within the watershed includes approximately 226 miles of permanent public stream frontage and 28 stream accesses.
Analysis of land ownership percentages within eleven digit hydrologic units reveals that units in the upper and lower Current River Watershed have the least percentage of publicly owned land. The Little Black Unit has the smallest percentage of public land at 3.4% (Table Lu06 and Figure Lu10). This land is managed by the MDC and USFS. The Pike Creek Unit, located in the middle of watershed, has the highest percentage of public land at 60.1%. The majority of this land is managed by the USFS.