MDC completes wetland enhancement projects at Otter Slough

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DEXTER Mo – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) recently completed work on 80-acres of wetland units at Otter Slough Conservation Area to improve habitat diversity, provide hunting opportunities and reduce maintenance needs.

According to Area Manager and Wildlife Biologist Kevin Brunke, work occurred in two locations along the west and southwest portions of the area with a purpose to “restore the hydrology and native plant community of a historic slough that existed prior to the construction of cypress ditch.”

A section of Otter Slough known as flag farm in the southwestern corner of the area had work done to remove willows and install a water control structure, which will improve habitat diversity according to Brunke. He said previous management in flag farm included planting oak trees that are now producing acorns, which also improves wildlife habitat.

Unit 28, located on the western side of the area off county road 679, had some cutting edge wetland development where an old slough system was restored and the levees were modified to make maintenance easier, according to Brunke.

“Prior to construction of this unit, we reforested much of the higher elevations to native oaks and planted cypress in some of the lower elevations in the old slough channels,” Brunke said. “This was part of our forest unit management.”

Brunke said restoring the slough is important because wetlands need plenty of surface variation, so that as water increases or decreases in depth new habitat is covered or revealed. This technique results in a wider diversity of wildlife and plants.

Much of Southeast Missouri was once forested with a myriad of species dependant on these special forested wetlands and foresters have learned about the links between water management and tree vigor in the past 20 years. MDC staff at Otter Slough CA have put that knowledge to work by restoring and managing forests with water management plans appropriate for tree growth while being mindful of low spots and high spots so they can put the right tree in the right place, according to Brunke.

The right tree in the right place makes a big difference, Brunke said, and new technologies such as Light Detection And Ranging (LIDAR) and fine Global Positioning Systems (GPS) elevation reports help mangers achieve that goal.

“We place Cypress and Tupelo in the wetter areas and oaks in the uplands,” Brunke said.

Work was completed this past summer making habitat enhancements for native plants and wildlife, and greater hunting opportunity a reality for Otter Slough CA for years to come.

“Otter Slough is a real gem when it comes to habitat diversity,” Brunke said. “It’s satisfying to see projects that benefit nature and the people who enjoy being out in it.”