MDC honors former commissioner with land at Peck Ranch Conservation Area

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CARTER COUNTY, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) honored former Commissioner Don Bedell during a dedication ceremony Tuesday, April 4 for the Don C. Bedell Unit of Peck Ranch Conservation Area.

Bedell, an avid conservationist and enthusiastic sportsman, served on the Missouri Conservation Commission through 2021 after serving two six-year terms. He is a life sponsor of Ducks Unlimited, a life member of Quail Unlimited, Inc., a sustaining member of the Conservation Federation of Missouri, a Diamond sponsor of the National Wild Turkey Federation, and a life member of the Safari Club.

During his time serving on the Conservation Commission, Bedell saw MDC accomplish numerous feats, including the historic restoration of once-native elk at the Peck Ranch Conservation Area in the Missouri Ozarks. On Tuesday, MDC recognized this connection by designating nearly 6,000 acres of newly conserved forestland as the “Don C. Bedell Unit” of Peck Ranch Conservation Area.

“Don Bedell will have a lasting impact in conservation, not only for his long tenure on the Conservation Commission, but for his vital role in recognizing how important partnerships are to moving conservation forward,” said MDC Director Sara Parker Pauley. “To be able to name this track of land after him in the Ozarks, especially a place so close to the elk herd he helped bring back to Missouri, really makes this a special moment and milestone.”

The 5,805-acre property, formerly known as Chilton Creek Research and Demonstration Area, contains some of the most biologically important woodland habitat in the Midwest and is surrounded by Peck Ranch Conservation Area, Rocky Creek Conservation Area, and Ozark National Scenic Riverway. The land was originally acquired by the Nature Conservancy (TNC) in 1991 in order to protect some of the most biologically important woodland habitat in the Midwest. Since that time, TNC has performed extensive management to restore and enhance high quality forest and woodland natural communities, and has collaboratively developed the Chilton Creek Fire Study to help research the benefits and impacts of prescribed fire in Ozark forest systems.

As a complementary effort to the Missouri Ozark Forest Ecosystem Project (MOFEP), MDC will continue to employ management practices to ensure healthy and sustainable natural resources on the property, such as using prescribed fire to enhance forest health and diversity. MDC purchased the property using $4,000,000 from the USDA Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program in October.

The tract of land is adjacent to 2.5 miles of the Current River, the most biologically significant river in the Midwest and one of Missouri’s most popular outdoor recreation streams. The property supports unusual species, such as the two-foot long Ozark hellbender (federally endangered), and is in the center of Missouri’s 220,000-acre elk restoration zone. With more than 830 plant species having been documented on the property and numerous fens, springs, and glades, some of Missouri’s highest quality woodlands can be found on the newly-designated Don C. Bedell Unit.

“Our nation’s forests provide immeasurable social, economic, and environmental benefits that are lost when forestland is converted to non-forest uses. The Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program directly supports our partners in pursuing mutual forest conservation objectives for the benefit of future generations,” said Gina Owens, Regional Forester for the USDA Forest Service’s Eastern Region.

The Don C. Bedell Unit will be open to the public and managed by MDC for multiple uses under certification through the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.

The Forest Legacy Program is administered by the USDA Forest Service in partnership with designated state agencies to encourage the protection of privately-owned forest lands through conservation easements or land purchases. It is funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which was established by Congress in 1964 to fulfill a bipartisan commitment to safeguard natural areas, water resources and cultural heritage, and to provide public recreation opportunities. Read more about the USDA Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program at

Learn more about The Nature Conservancy online at

For more information on Peck Ranch Conservation Area, visit MDC online at