News and Almanac

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From Missouri Conservationist: Jul 2000

The King of Fundraisers

Missouri's newest and largest public wetland got a huge boost in April when Ducks Unlimited (DU) presented a $2.75 million check to the Conservation Department for land acquisition at the 7,000-acre Four Rivers Conservation Area (CA) in Bates and Vernon counties. Conservation Commisioners, left to right, Ronald J. Stites, Randy Herzog, Anita B. Gorman and Howard Wood accepted the check. August A. Busch III and Adolphus A. Busch IV, of St. Louis' Anheuser-Busch brewing dynasty, provided the lion's share of the cash by organizing a record-setting $4.5 million fundraising event for DU last fall. DU used $1.5 million of the cash for Four Rivers CA. Another $1 million came as a matching grant from the North American Wetlands Conservation Act. DU contributed $200,000 through its MARSH Program, and the remaining $50,000 came from other major DU contributors. The Conservation Department has put up $2.5 million for the project.

Legislators Who CARA Send Conservation Measure To Senate

Decisive action in the U.S. House of Representatives has moved the Conservation and Reinvestment Act of 2000 (CARA) ahead, putting the ball in the Senate's court.

In May, the House voted 315 to 102 in favor of HR 701, one of several bills aimed at "keeping the promise" that Congress made when it set up the Land and Water Conservation Fund in the 1960s. The program was established with the intent of "reinvesting" federal revenues from offshore oil and gas leases in wildlife conservation and urban parks while also mitigating the impact of offshore oil and gas drilling on coastal areas.

Missouri's share of the money would be administered by the Missouri departments of Conservation and Natural Resources. Much of the money would go to local governments and conservation groups as grants for local projects, such as parks, outdoor classrooms and wildlife habitat.

CARA enjoys broad bipartisan support. U.S. representatives voting for HR701 included 196 Democrats, 118 Republicans and one independent.

Educated Hunters Bring Down Gun Deaths

Accidental firearms fatalities in Missouri have decreased 22 percent since 1987, according to the National Safety Council (NSC). The state's improved firearms safety record contributed to a nationwide decrease in accidental firearms deaths, which the NSC says are at the lowest level since record keeping began in 1903.

In 1987, the year that firearms safety training became mandatory for Missouri hunters, the NSC recorded 37 fatal firearms accidents in Missouri, 12 of which were hunting accidents. In 1996, the most recent year for which state-by-state statistics are available, Missouri had 29 fatal firearms accidents, including one hunting fatality.

Of the 900 accidental deaths due to firearms in 1998, 700 occurred in the home. NSC figures for 1998 showed the accidental firearms death rate was lower than the death rate from falls (16,600), poisoning (9,000), drowning (4,100) or choking (3,200). State and national officials attribute the long-term improvement in firearms safety-despite increasing gun ownership-to firearms training and hunter education programs.

"Peeping Tom" Comes A-Calling

Conservation Department Policy Analyst Mary Lyon was surprised when this turkey gobbler came knocking at her back door in Columbia last March. The bird, apparently attracted to its own reflection in the patio door, rapped repeatedly on the glass and stayed long enough for Lyon to get a camera and take several pictures. Territoriality associated with the mating season probably prompted the visit by the mating season probably prompted the visit by the "peeping tom."

Fishy Formulas

Anglers who are serious about catch-and-release fishing seldom hoist their catches out of the water and hang them on scales to document their weight. That leads to uncertainty (and highly creative estimates ) of how big the fish that didn't get away really were. Although not precise, the following formulas yield good ballpark estimates of fish weight, based on species and length.

  • LARGEMOUTH BASS - (length in inches) 3 ÷ 1,600 = (est. pounds)
  • BLUEGILL - (length in inches) 3 ÷ 1,200 = (est. pounds)
  • CATFISH - (length in inches) 3 ÷ 2,000 = (est. pounds)

Example: for a largemouth bass 20 inches long, (20 X 20 X 20)÷ 1,600 = 5 pounds.

Add or subtract a bit for fish fatter or thinner than average for their weight.

If the formula yields an answer smaller than your eyeball estimate of a particular fish, feel free to assume the formula underestimates its weight.

Centennial Forests: Help for Private Landowners (1950s)

In 1939, the year after the Conservation Commission was established, the Soil Conservation Service proposed establishing farm forestry positions to help private landowners manage their woodlands. Then, as now, the vast majority of Missouri's forested land was in private ownership.

Arthur Meyer became the state's first farm forester at Warrenton in 1940. Soon afterward William Towell, who later served as Conservation Department director, took a job as a farm forester in Kirksville. This program was another effort to educate Missourians about the value of their timber.

During World War II, Congress passed a law authorizing the U.S. Forest Service to start its own farm forestry program. In 1951, Congress passed another law greatly expanding the program. Now foresters could work with wood industries and on state land besides helping private landowners.

With wildfires under control, upgrading the quality of Missouri's forests was important. A 1949 survey showed that two out of every five trees in the state were "culls," trees with little or no commercial value. The rest was young growth. Farm foresters worked with landowners to market these "defective" trees,giving a boost to Missouri's charcoal and pallet industries. Programs like the Forest Cropland Law and Agricultural Conservation Program gave landowners financial incentives to manage their woods for better quality timber.

Today, farm foresters are called resource foresters. Stationed throughout Missouri, they provide free services to landowners and wood industries and work on state forest land. Most of Missouri's forest land still is owned by private landowners, and their stewardship provides all of us with many benefits-wood, water, wildlife, recreation and scenic beauty. -Bruce Palmer

Exemplary Tree Planters Sought

Trees enhance the quality of life in urban areas by providing cooling shade in summer and a shield from winter winds. They generate oxygen and trap tiny bits of pollutants to clean the air. They also make cities more attractive. If you or someone you know has made a significant contribution to your community by planting and caring for trees on public land, you should consider applying for a Missouri Treescape Award. Treescape awards are presented in several categories based on the type and size of institution, business or organization. Tree planting projects must be completed before the award application is submitted, and only projects involving trees that have been planted two growing seasons or less will be considered.

Competing projects are inspected by the Conservation Department, which selects winners based on value to the community, concept and planning, number of trees planted, size of trees used and quality of planting and aftercare. Application forms are available from Conservation Department offices statewide. The application deadline is August 1.

Wetland A Fitting Tribute to Conservation Great

The Conservation Department has formally recognized a fact of Show-Me State conservation, that the name Mike Milonski will long be remembered among Missourians who love "things natural, wild and free."

Milonski died in 1998 at age 69. On April 8, conservation officials joined the Milonski family in dedicating the Mike Milonski Wetland Complex at Fountain Grove Conservation Area. "This beautiful and timeless memorial commemorates his tireless efforts to make this the finest conservation department in the country," said Milonski's brother, Mitch, of St. Louis.

Milonski's achievements earned him many conservation honors, including the E. Sidney Stephens Award, Missouri's highest award for professional conservationists. This month, the Conservation Commission inducted him into the Missouri Conservation Hall of Fame. He was a frequent contributor to The Missouri Conservationist.

Ticked Off? Try These Avoidance Tips

Tick season is here, and it's the worst most Missourians can remember. The abundance of ticks makes it especially important for Missourians to be mindful of preventing tick bites and tick-borne diseases. Ticks can transmit Lyme disease, tularemia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and ehrlichiosis.

  • Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants tucked into boots makes it harder for ticks to get at you.
  • Wearing light-colored clothing makes ticks easier to see. But the most effective anti-tick tools are repellants containing DEET or permethrin. DEET can be applied directly to skin, and its protection lasts several hours. The higher the DEET content, the better it works.
  • For long-lasting protection, nothing beats permethrin. Repellants with this contact insecticide shouldn't be applied directly to skin. But when applied to clothing, permethrin bonds to the fabric and kills ticks for at least two weeks. The chemical barrier remains effective through two washings. To extend protection even longer, store treated clothing in a plastic bag between uses.
  • When applying repellants, pay special attention to waistbands, button-closures, boots, and shirt and pants cuffs.

Apply aerosol repellants in well-ventilated areas, and don't spray DEET-based repellants directly on your face. Instead, put a little on your hands and rub it on, avoiding the eyes and mouth.

Even if you are careful, you probably will be bitten if you spend lots of time outdoors. Check for ticks as soon as you get home. If you find a tick attached, don't burn it, cover it with a gas-soaked rag, daub it with petroleum jelly or do anything else that might cause the tick to regurgitate blood it has ingested, exposing you to germs it might have picked up from earlier hosts. Squeezing engorged ticks can cause involuntary regurgitation, and twisting or jerking them out is likely to leave their heads embedded in the skin, leading to secondary bacterial infections.

The best way to remove a tick is to grasp it firmly as close to the head as possible, using tweezers or tissue to avoid direct contact. Gently pull the tick straight out, then disinfect the bite area.

The most common warning sign of tick-borne disease is a rash or swelling at the site of the bite. In Lyme disease, a raised, bull's-eye rash develops within a few days, eventually reaching several inches in diameter. If you experience flu-like symptoms, such as sore throat, fever, headaches, body aches and dizziness, following a tick bite, don't assume it's a summer cold. These often are signs of tick-borne disease. When you visit the doctor, be sure to mention that you've recently been bitten by a tick or were in a tick-infested area.

Ivory-billed Ghost Sighted

One of North America's most spectacular birds, long feared extinct, may still exist in the continental United States. In April last year, Louisiana State University forestry student David Kulivan reported seeing a pair of ivory-billed woodpeckers at the 35,000-acre Pearl River Wildlife Management Area in eastern Louisiana. For ornithologists, the news could not have been more remarkable if Kulivan had reported a phoenix rising from its own ashes.

Since the last confirmed sighting in 1941, many such reports have been written off as honest misidentification of the common and slightly smaller pileated woodpecker. But experts agree the Louisiana sighting is the most credible in 50 years.

In 1986, Cuban and American biologists independently reported seeing ivorybills in Guantanamo Province. Until then, the 19-inch birds were thought to have gone extinct in the 1940s as old-growth forest dwindled to a fraction of its original extent in the southeastern United States.

Fishing For Information

Are you a classroom teacher with a yen to learn-and teach-more about fish? Would your scout or Four-H group enjoy learning about fish, streams and other aquatic resources? Could you use aquatic resource curriculum materials in your home-schooling program? The Conservation Department is fishing for information to improve and update its Aquatic Resource Education (ARE) programs, and you can help.

The ARE Survey is a brief questionnaire designed to help conservation education officials stay abreast of demographic trends and Missourians' educational needs. The questions cover respondents' demographic information, fishing behaviors, attitudes and knowledge about fish ecology, water quality and aquatic resource management.

To express your preferences for conservation education materials and programs, write to ARE Survey, Aquatic Resources Education, Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180.

Sen. Bonds Casts Net For Fishable Waters

Missouri Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond is one of three sponsors of a bill that would establish a voluntary, incentive-based program to restore fisheries resources. Bond introduced the Fishable Waters Act of 200 (FWA) in Congress in April, proposing to establish a public/private partnership to bolster local fisheries restoration.

The FWA is designed to bring farmers and anglers together and give them resources to enhance water quality and fish habitat without regulations. At a press conference announcing the legislation, Bond shared the podium with representatives of the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society and the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA). "I am pleased to have the strong support of such a diverse spectrum of interests for this legislation," said Bond. "The endorsement of Fishable Waters Coalition clearly demonstrates the Wide appeal of this pragmatic, voluntary and proven approach of making landowners, conservationist and local leaders full partners in the effort to conserve fisheries and improve habitat."

NCGA President Roger Pine said working locally through voluntary, incentive-based programs is the best way to ensure the participation of farmers, whose active help is essential to water and fisheries conservation. Nearly 40 percent of the nation's waters are not considered fishable, and barely 2 percent of America's 3.6 million miles are healthy enough to be considered high quality.

Habitat Hints

Guide Offers Tips on Removing Gravel From Streams

Removing gravel from streams can damage fish populations and erode surrounding land if not done properly. It can also land you in legal trouble. The Conservation Department has a booklet to help landowners avoid these problems. "A Landowner's Guide to Sand and Gravel Removal" is available free on request from Fisheries Division, Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180.

The booklet explains the problems associated with gravel removal and how to avoid them.

Helpful tips include:

  • Remove sand and gravel from streams only between June 15 and March 15 to avoid harming spawning fish.
  • Remove material only from bars that are loosely packed.
  • Remove gravel above the water line and leave a 20-foot buffer
  • between the normal water line and the excavation.
  • Avoid gravel removal within 20 feet of streamside vegetation, which
  • helps prevent bank cutting and erosion.
  • Replant vegetation on excavated areas to prevent erosion.

Before excavating, obtain all necessary permits from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Now's The Time For Good Will Hunting

Although too few hunters think about it, one of the most important hunting seasons is open right now. Summer is good will hunting season.

Landowners and hunters have a lot in common. Farmers who suffer crop losses to white-tailed deer each year and stockmen who constantly battle coyotes and raccoons have a strong financial incentive to work with hunters who can remove animals that cut into their profit margins. Similarly, homeowners can look to hunters for help in preventing their lawns and landscape plants from being decimated by rabbits, deer or resident Canada geese.

Hunters readily recognize this common ground, but sometimes they forget common courtesy. Landowners who host hunters have to think about the effect their guests may have on crops, equipment and livestock, not to mention their families' safety. Would you feel comfortable having gun-toting strangers traipsing through your back yard with little or no notice?

Now is the perfect time for hunters to scout places to hunt come fall. Getting to know landowners-and letting them get to know you-translates into a greater comfort level on both sides when hunting season rolls around. It shows that you are a responsible hunter and that you think enough of your host to spend a little time laying a foundation for a mutually beneficial relationship.

Take your spouse or children along on some of these trips, and, while you're at it, bring along some token of good will. A roll of venison summer sausage or some smoked turkey makes a great icebreaker.

Ask about your prospective host's past experiences with hunters. This will alert you to potential pitfalls and give you a chance to discuss ground rules. If practical, offer to keep an eye on things, stopping before and after each hunt to pass along information about livestock and equipment, and perhaps offer to help with fence mending or other chores that need doing.

If you don't want to be treated like a stranger in November, start being a friend now.

BassTourney To Benefit Spinal Cord Research

The Spinal Cord Society will hold its fifth annual buddy bass tournament July 30 at Osage Bluff Marina on Truman Lake. Proceeds support spinal cord injury research.

First prize will be a Ranger Cherokee 116 complete with trailer, trolling motor and electronics. Contestants will be included in a drawing for a Yamaha Big Bear all-terrain vehicle. Other attractions include an auction and barbecue the evening before the contest. For registration information, contact Mickey Powell, (660) 477-3858,

This Issue's Staff

Editor - Tom Cwynar
Managing Editor - Jim Auckley
Art Editor - Dickson Stauffer
Designer - Tracy Ritter
Artist - Dave Besenger
Artist - Mark Raithel
Photographer - Jim Rathert
Photographer - Cliff White
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Staff Writer - Joan McKee
Composition - Libby Bode Block
Circulation - Bertha Bainer