Private landowners and officials from state and federal agencies gathered on the banks of the Missouri River Sept. 18 to celebrate a partnership that benefits farmers, hunters, anglers and nature watchers, not to mention thousands of downstream residents.
The occasion was the dedication of a fish and wildlife mitigation project at Overton Bottoms, which straddles I-70 at Rocheport. The 5,000-acre project occupies former farmland that was damaged by the Great Flood of 1993. The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers bought the land from willing sellers to restore wildlife habitat lost to the Missouri River Bank Stabilization and Navigation Project.
From the 1920s through the 1970s, the Corps of Engineers reduced the width of the river, eliminating hundreds of thousands of acres of bottomland hardwood forest, islands, sand bars and shallow-water areas. These areas once sustained abundant fish and wildlife, as well as the recreational hunting and fishing and commercial fishing that these resources provided.
Before channelization, the flood plain also allowed the river to spread out harmlessly during floods. This reduced flood crests, minimizing property damage.
Overton Bottoms is just one area where the Corps of Engineers is working to offset the negative ecological and economic effects of river channelization. John Hoskins, director of the Missouri Department of Conservation, said the mitigation project was possible only through the cooperation of private landowners, the Corps of Engineers and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Hoskins noted that moving 4.5 miles of river levee back from the river as part of the project "acts as a pressure-relief valve that reduces flood heights on downstream farms and communities. "Part of Overton Bottoms will be restored to seasonal wetlands and bottomland hardwood forest.
"Equally important," said Hoskins," are the restoration of side channels and the notching of dikes to restore shallow water habitat necessary for the diversity and health of native fish and other aquatic species. The Missouri River Mitigation Project is a win-win for Missourians."
Corps of Engineers Kansas City District Engineer Col. Donald R. Curtis, Jr., expressed pride in his agency's role in enhancing fish and wildlife habitat. U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Director Robyn Thorson said the project is an important part of efforts to restore habitat on "a highly engineered river."
Also present for the dedication was John Clay, a sixth-generation farmer whose family settled in Missouri in 1816. Now president of the Overton-Wooldridge Levee District,he sold land to the Corps of Engineers for the project. He said it is a good example of balancing the needs of private landowners with public policy goals.
"The levee district and the Corps of Engineers have made great strides in making private and public interests compatible,"said Clay. He said he looks forward to working with the Corps of Engineers,the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Conservation Department in the future, and thanked them for "being good neighbors."
Hunting and fishing permits for 2004 go on sale Dec. 1, just in time for holiday gift giving. Not only can you purchase permits for your favorite hunter or angler, but you also can pick up a free gift card. The card even tells the recipient when various regulation booklets will be available throughout the year.
When purchasing permits for others, be sure to bring along one of the following to identify the permittee in the computerized permit system:
Are you interested in having more quail on your property? A free quarterly newsletter, "The Covey Headquarters," can help. Compiled by an interagency committee, this newsletter brings the latest in quail research and habitat management success stories to you. To subscribe, contact: The Covey Headquarters Newsletter, 3915 Oakland Ave, St. Joseph, MO 64506 or email Bill.White@mdc.mo.gov
Introduce your children to the amazing array of life in Missouri forests by reading aloud this colorful new Missouri Department of Conservation book written by Lorna Domke and illustrated by wildlife artist David Besenger. It's the story of a gray fox kit that sets out one spring morning and meets all sorts of flying, crawling and running creatures, including a luna moth, tiger salamander, box turtle, whitetailed deer and more. The book is for or children ages 2-6. The books cost $8 each,plus tax and shipping and handling. Order number 01-0155.
This sequel to the "Habitactics"computer game challenges players of all ages to create a healthy place for urban wildlife to live. Plant the trees, flowers and shrubs and see what appears! Turn an empty lot into a home for all sorts of animals, and a place for people to enjoy the natural world, too. You can also collect your own virtual photos of what you've seen along the way. Extra games give you a chance to quickly check what you know about Missouri's native plants and wildlife. The CD-ROM is for Windows 95/98/2000/ ME/XP and Macintosh 9/X. Order number 03-0300. The cost is $10 each, plus tax, shipping and handling.
To order, call toll-free (877) 521-8632 or visit online.
Missouri youths have been impressive recently in outdoor skills competitions, adding luster to the Show-Me State's reputation as a recreational paradise.
Four teams represented Missouri at the 4-H Shooting Sports National Invitational Match in Raton,N. M. ,in July. They finished in the top five in shotgun,smallbore rifle,muzzleloading and archery.
Missouri's muzzleloader team finished first. The Missouri smallbore rifle team finished third. The archery team placed fourth. The shotgun team placed fifth in the most competitive event of the match.
Also at Raton, N. M. last summer, Missouri's Youth Hunter Education Challenge team earned three first-place trophies, four seconds and five thirds.
The Heartland Sharpshooters of Brookfield placed second in archery and third in muzzleloader. The Back 40 Sharpshooters of Fair Grove took a team second place in rifle. Mike Ramsey of Sparta High School received the "Slim Borsay Outstanding Coach of the Year Award," and Martha Cook of Fair Grove became the first girl to shoot a perfect score in the .22-caliber rifle marksmanship competition.
A 4-H group from northwest Missouri placed ninth in the Wildlife Habitat Evaluation National Contest at Las Cruces, N. M. It was the first time a Missouri team has placed in the top 10 at the competition.
The youths, ages 14-17, ranked various sites on their ability to support different wildlife. They also created habitat management plans for wild and urban landscapes.
The Faith Assembly Christian School of West Plains fielded its first team in the Grand American World Trapshooting Championship in Vandalia, Ohio, last summer. They competed against nearly 1,000 other youths in grades 12 and under from 41 states. The team didn't take home any of the $69,000 in scholarship award money, but their experience was valuable.
"We were there to have a good time this year," said coach Mark Odom. "But we're going to be a real threat in six years. "
The 2004 Natural Events Calendars are now available. These gorgeous calendars,produced by the Missouri Department of Conservation,are always popular,so don't wait.
Twenty-four of the 32 pages contain stunning color photos of Missouri wildlife,plants and landscapes. Date squares keep you posted on what's blooming or nesting and myriad other natural events. The remaining eight pages contain bonus photos, a list of citizen conservation groups and information about other nature-related topics and publications. We've also included a list of monthly tips for native plant gardeners.
Supplies of the award-winning calendar are limited, and they are in high demand, so buy early. The calendar is available for $5, plus tax, at Conservation Department Nature Centers and regional offices. To purchase by mail, contact the Nature Shop, P. O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102 or call toll free at (877) 521-8632. Shipping and handling charges will be added to mail orders. Calendars also can be ordered online.
Editor - Tom Cwynar
Managing Editor - Bryan Hendricks
Art Director - Ara Clark
Artist - Dave Besenger
Artist - Mark Raithel
Photographer - Jim Rathert
Photographer - Cliff White
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Staff Writer - Joan McKee
Circulation - Laura Scheuler