Management and Research

By | May 20, 2010
From Missouri Conservationist: Mar 2002

Conservation requires up-to-date knowledge about the status of wildlife populations and habitat. Not only do we need to know what we've got, we also have to be able to forecast and fend off threats to our ecosystems.

Mussels provide a good example. Current conditions threaten mussels in many Missouri streams. Researchers are trying to discover the cause of native mussel decline. At the same time, they are experimenting with culturing native mussels to keep species from going extinct.

The Conservation Department maintains a research facility in Columbia to monitor and improve Missouri's forests, fish and wildlife. Its efforts are supplemented by numerous "field staff," which include conservation professionals, university students and volunteer naturalists. Its knowledge base is further enhanced by studies being conducted by similar agencies in other states or by federal resource protection agencies.

The core philosophy guiding the Conservation Department's management and research efforts is biodiversity. Missouri is unique among states in that it represents a merging of ecosystems from the north, south, east and west. We want to maintain our natural wealth by keeping Missouri habitable and desirable for all native species.

Enhancement of Great Rivers Borders


  • To protect a band of land on the river side of levees as well as bluffs and bottomlands along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, either by purchase or easement from willing landowners, for wildlife and natural values management.
  • To restore bottomland lakes for marsh and aquatic wildlife.
  • To study effects of navigation and other channel projects on wildlife and fisheries, to include model study and other engineering techniques and bring about ecological diversity and improvement.

Keeping the Promises of Design:

  • Purchases of flood-prone land along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers have allowed the Conservation Department to provide a chain of wetlands that host waterfowl and reduce the impact of flood waters along the waterway.
  • Purchased flood-devastated bottomland from willing sellers at prices that, when added to the federal funds they received from Wetland Reserve Program and Emergency Wetland Reserve Program, provided a per-acre compensation equal to the value of prime farmland.
  • Biological data provided to the Corps of Engineers influenced the design of engineering projects for the benefit of fish and wildlife habitat along the big rivers.
  • Established a Long Term Resource Monitoring field station in the Lower Mississippi River, near Cape Girardeau, to monitor fish, water quality and vegetation in the Mississippi River and predict and protect against threats to the health of the river.

Wildlife Research


  • To widen the scope of existing research programs and to emphasize basic research on rare and endangered and non-game species.
  • To conduct research into various habitats in order to perpetuate existing ones and restore vanished ones.
  • To establish protected areas for rare and endangered species such as bats, certain fishes and birds.

Keeping the Promises of Design:

  • The Wildlife Research Section maintains about 60 ongoing research studies or surveys. The targets of their research include waterfowl, ruffed grouse, wild turkey, furbearers, small game, deer and bear. Researchers also monitor tree mast production, songbird abundance, species recovery programs, landowner opinions, plant communities and recreational use.
  • Under the Natural History Small Grants Program, studies have been completed on Ozark cavefish, alligator snapping turtles, eastern collared lizards, cerulean warblers, eastern woodrats, black-tailed jackrabbits, Missouri butterflies, running buffalo clover and western prairie fringed orchid.
  • Natural History Division biologists survey the state for rare and endangered animals such as prairie mole crickets, Ozark cavefish, Ozark big-eared bats, bald eagles and western chicken turtles.
  • Numerous projects relating to and focusing attention on reptiles and amphibians, such as the eastern massasauga rattlesnake, the Illinois chorus frog and the Ozark hellbender, have been completed.
  • Examples of upcoming studies include documenting occurrences of Franklin's ground squirrels, conducting timber rattlesnake surveys and surveying the state for eastern spotted skunks.

Forest Research


  • To intensify the existing tree improvement program by locating, testing and propagating superior trees, including forest trees, wildlife shrubs and ornamental native species.
  • To contract for applied research or establish such a research unit to test and modify new forestry techniques for application to Missouri forestry.
  • To study ecological changes caused by forest practices and land use so these may be modified to prevent harmful results.
  • To develop management techniques which will permit multiple use of lands by diverse users with an attempt to reconcile conflicts and use differences.

Keeping the Promises of Design:

  • Missouri Ozark Forest Ecosystem Project (MOFEP) includes at least 20 studies-some lasting 100 years-of forest management practices on Ozark forest plants and animals. The studies are being conducted on 9,200 acres of conservation land in Shannon, Reynolds and Carter counties.
  • The Conservation Department has teamed with the U.S. Forest Service to conduct an ongoing survey of the entire state's forest resources, about 14 million acres. Surveys include about one-fifth of the state each year.

Aquatic Research


  • To identify and diversify present research designed to increase the productivity of existing waters and increase opportunities for wildlife-oriented recreation. New approaches, economic and sociological as well as biological, would be used to solve existing problems.
  • To assure the perpetuation and restoration of aquatic habitats and investigate specific threats to waters, such as siltation, pollution and general degradation, and recommend appropriate action.
  • To investigate the advisability of introducing new aquatic species and determine the effects of such introduction on the fishery and on the aquatic community.

Keeping the Promises of Design:

  • Fisheries researchers monitor the health and productivity of the state's fish resources by test netting, electro-shocking, collecting angler catch data and many other means.
  • At Lamine River and Locust Creek conservation areas, the Conservation Department is innovating and refining stream management techniques, including tree revetments, artificial riffles, willow-staking, anchored rootwads and boulder clusters.
  • The Conservation Department provided technical assistance in the establishment of fish habitat in new reservoirs and lakes, including Truman, Mark Twain, Smithville and Long Branch lakes.
  • The Conservation Department established special management areas for trout and smallmouth bass to increase opportunities available for anglers to catch trophy size fish.
  • Fisheries Division researchers monitor and manage the state's mussel stocks and have established mussel nurseries to help prevent the loss of native species.
  • The Conservation Department employs a fisheries geneticist to determine appropriate fish stocks for management, provide information to preserve native fish stocks, establish taxonomic relationships among fishes, assist with law-enforcement and certify record fishes.
  • Conservation fisheries biologists improved the production and survival of trout fry destined for stocking in Missouri waters and developed methods of raising endangered pallid sturgeon in a hatchery.

Forest Fire Control


  • To intensify the protection from wildfire of the timber resource and wildlife cover in northern and western Missouri. The major emphasis would be to assist rural fire departments by training them in the act of suppression of natural cover fires and to help them acquire the necessary tools and equipment.

Keeping the Promises of Design:

  • A Conservation Department grant program supplements a Forest Service program to help fire departments in small communities purchase equipment.
  • A county master fire plan project evaluated fire department resources and made recommendations on ways to lower insurance ratings by additional training and equipment acquisition.
  • The Rural Forest Fire Equipment Center processes about $3.5 million worth of Federal Excess Personal Property for fire department use each year.


  • Update: Major floods in 1993 and 1995 increased public attention on big river floodplains and made more land available for sale to the Conservation Department.

This Issue's Staff

Editor - Tom Cwynar
Managing Editor - Bryan Hendricks
Art Editor - Dickson Stauffer
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