Priority Geographies

Building Partnerships for Healthy Landscapes

What Is A Priority Geography?

Priority geographies are key landscapes in Missouri that hold high potential for conserving our state’s diverse habitats and the plants and animals that depend on them.

Within these areas, MDC biologists, partner organizations, and private landowners work together to make the landscape healthier and more profitable. The end results will be a boon for fish, forests, and wildlife and will increase recreational opportunities, aesthetics, and the economic value of private property.

MDC has designated nine priority geographies. These landscapes are now receiving focused attention for habitat enhancement. Each of the nine areas includes varying amounts of privately owned and public lands, and contains one or more MDC-managed conservation areas. More priority geographies may be added as time and funding allow. Follow the links at the bottom of this page for details about each of the current priority geographies.

MDC Priority Geographies

Why Are These Areas Important?

Priority geographies can provide large areas of continuous habitat that is vital to the survival of Missouri’s plants and wildlife.

State and federally owned lands make up only about 7 percent of Missouri’s land area and are scattered around the state. These fragmented habitats are not enough to support and maintain Missouri’s diverse natural heritage.

The key to conserving fish, forests, and wildlife in Missouri is quality, connected habitat on both public and private land. Our work in priority geographies is a proactive measure to create this essential habitat.

Why Missouri Habitats and Species Matter

Field with native grasses and wildlflowers
Restored grasslands with native plants at Schell-Osage Conservation Area

What Work Is Underway?

  • Forest, woodland, and timber improvement
  • Glade and wetland restoration
  • River and stream bank stabilization
  • Cave and spring protection
  • Wildlife-friendly grazing practices and improved pollinator habitat
  • Grassland revitalization and native plant restoration
  • Other habitat and landscape improvements depending on the area and landowner needs

MDC staff and partners periodically monitor priority geographies for key species and other indicators of water, stream, and landscape health. Future work is adjusted based on these land-health checkups.

What Are The Benefits To Landowners Who Participate?

Enhancing the habitat on your land can:

  • Decrease erosion and increase the health of soil and water.
  • Establish safe, reliable drinking water for livestock.
  • Provide more types of forage and season-long grazing.
  • Boost forest health and timber production.
  • Improve drought resilience.
  • Increase opportunities for recreation and wildlife viewing.
  • Enhance the aesthetics of your property and possibly increase property value.
  • Contribute to the long-term conservation of Missouri’s plants and wildlife.

Cost-share assistance may be available. MDC offers free consultations and trainings.

MDC and partner specialists will work with you to develop a plan for improving habitat on your property while giving thoughtful protection to your interests and bottom line.

For more information, contact your local private land conservationist.

By working together, MDC, partner agencies and organizations, and private landowners can make these landscapes healthier for both wildlife and people.

In This Section

Shallow stream lined with trees and other woodland vegetation

Big Buffalo Creek Watershed

Big Buffalo Creek Watershed is an outstanding example of healthy Ozark streams sustained by forest-woodland habitats.

Open grassland with native grasses and wildflowers

Grand River Grasslands

Grand River Grasslands is one of the last areas with deep soil/glacial till prairies in Missouri.

Aerial view of river with trees growing along its banks

Huzzah/Shoal Creek Woodlands

The Huzzah/Shoal Creeks region is one of the most biologically intact and functioning landscapes within the Meramec Basin.

Stream with sandbar, short rock face, and trees along edges

Little Niangua River

The Little Niangua River area is the most diverse Ozark border stream system within Missouri’s Upper Ozark Highlands.

Marshy area with reeds and water plants, within a woodland area

Mahan's Creek

The Mahan’s Creek area encompasses 67,653 acres of diverse habitats and streams, and boasts 35 species of fish.

Field of grasses and purple coneflowers with some larkspur mixed in

Missouri River Hills

The Missouri River Hills region is the largest block of quality woodlands and forest north of the Missouri River in our state.

Aerial view of wetlands and forest

River Bends

The River Bends Priority Geography is the best example of healthy bottomland forest and wetland floodplains along the Mississippi River in Missouri.

View of savanna (open grassland with some woodlands)

Spring Creek Watershed

Spring Creek Watershed encompasses a variety of habitats, including one of the largest prairie and savanna communities in the state.

Cattle in field with blazing star and native grass

Upper Osage Grasslands

The Upper Osage Grasslands encompass some of the most diverse native tallgrass prairies in the state.

Rocky glade on mountain top with forest and far horizon in the background view

Why Missouri Habitats and Species Matter

While we may enjoy going outside and experiencing nature through fishing, birdwatching, hiking, and other activities, nature provides benefits far beyond recreation.

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