News and Almanac

Private Land Program Wins Soil Conservation Kudos

The Missouri Conservation Commission has been honored by the Show-Me Chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society for forming the Conservation Department's new Private land Division. Commission Chairman Howard Wood (left) accepted the Society's 2000 Professional Conservationist Award from Ken Bruene of the SWCS at the annual Natural Resources Conference in February. The award recognizes the important role that the Private land Program will play in helping Missouri landowners implement management practices that will improve profitability and wildlife values while helping to protect the soil resources that are the foundation of agricultural and wildlife productivity.

The Private land Program will be fully operational by July 1, with strategies to help urban, suburban and rural landowners get the most from their property while maximizing wildlife habitat. To learn more, contact the Private land Division, Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180. Phone (573) 751-4115, ext. 237.

Mushroom Festival Celebrates Morels for 20th Year

A mushroom parade with morel floats, a biggest-morel contest, a talent show, a Little Mister and Miss Morel Pageant and mushroom-theme arts and crafts are among the attractions at the 20th Annual Mushroom Festival May 5 and 6 at Richmond in southern Ray County.

The festivities get under way with craft booths that open at 9 a.m. Friday and continue through 6 p.m. Saturday. Entries in the biggest-morel contest must be brought in by noon Saturday. Entries must be fresh and may not have been soaked in water. Last year's winning mushroom was actually a cluster of six conjoined morels with a combined weight of 15 ounces. The 1998 winner was a monster morel that stood 15 inches tall and had a girth of 9 inches.

For more information call (816) 776-2255 or (816) 776-6916.

HABITAT HINTS

Aqua Guidance For Pond Owners

What do fathead minnows, excessive vegetation and crappie in small impoundments have in common? They're all subjects of publications in the Conservation Department's "Aquaguide" series of publications.

Managing fish populations in Missouri's 300,000-plus farm ponds is important, since they add up to more than 200,000 acres of fertile fishing water. Aquaguides cover such diverse topics as how to manage excessive vegetation in ponds, how to "fix" a muddy pond and how to manage crappie in small impoundments so they don't become overpopulated and stunted. There's even one explaining how stocking fathead minnows in a new pond can help establish a self-sustaining fish population that will provide years of fishing fun.

After using Conservation Department aquaguides to enhance your pond, you can refer to a list of fish dealers to find the commercial fish supplier nearest you. The Fish Dealers List and Aquaguides are available free of charge. They can be downloaded from the Conservation Department public website. You also can get them by writing to Missouri Department of Conservation, Fisheries Division, PO Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180.

Lake Ozark Marina Puts Zebra Mussels in Dry Dock

If not for concerned citizens, Lake of the Ozarks might already be teeming with zebra mussels. In February, a boat transport driver picked up a 32-foot cabin cruiser from the Mississippi River at Alton, Ill., with orders to bring it to Lake of the Ozarks. Luckily, an employee of the Illinois Department of Natural resources pointed out to the driver that the boat's hull was covered with fingernail-sized adult zebra mussels. When the driver arrived at Lake Ozark, he repeated the warning to Glen Cove Marine Service Writer Pam Cline.

"Once I knew that, I said, that boat goes nowhere until we find out how to deal with the infestation," says Cline. Conservation Department officials told Cline to keep the boat high and dry so the mussels would die of cold and dehydration.

Cline says she learned a lot from the experience. She found out that boats can be infested, even if they don't carry adult mussels. "They told us that the hull of a boat can be covered with larvae without visible signs. We launch a lot of boats for vacationers, and from now on we will check them. If they feel like sandpaper, they don't go in the water. We don't want to contribute to a disaster."

The zebra mussel, which is native to Eurasia, hitched a ride to North America in the ballast water of oceangoing ships in the 1980s. From its initial beachhead in the Great Lakes, the exotic mussel has spread rapidly, causing economic and ecological damage wherever it goes. The prolific animal forms dense colonies, densely encrusting solid surfaces. They clog pipes on everything from boat motors to power plants. Zebra mussels also smother native freshwater mussels and disrupt natural food chains.

Moose-Deed Proves Costly

A Marshall, Mo., man paid more than expected for the privilege of shooting a Wyoming moose in September of 1998. He shot the bull moose on a tag issued to a friend. He had it mounted there, then shipped back to Missouri, where he proudly displayed it in the office of his insurance agency.

State and federal agents teamed up to track the poacher down, and when they did he got slapped with a $10,000 fine, $5,000 in restitution, forfeiture of the Browning 7 mm magnum semiautomatic rifle used to kill the moose and the loss of his hunting and fishing privileges nationwide for three years. He also has to pay the cost of shipping the mounted moose head back to Wyoming.

Agents are looking for the friend whose hunting permit was misused in the misdeed.

How to Stop Zebra Mussels

Boaters and anglers play an important role in delaying the spread of zebra mussels. If you move your boat from the Mississippi River or other areas with zebra mussel infestations:

  • Avoid leaving boats in zebra mussel infested waters for extended periods.
  • Drain all water from bilges, live wells, bait buckets and other equipment when you move your boat from infested waters and discard minnows and other leftover bait.
  • Inspect boat hull, drive unit, trim plates, trolling plates, prop guards, transducers, anchor, ropes and trailer when leaving infested waters, and scrape off weeds, trash and any suspected mussels, however small.
  • Flush live wells, bilges and pumps, bait buckets and engine cooling system with hot water before launching in uninfested waters.
  • Wash the exterior of the boat, motor and trailer with hot water at a carwash.
  • Let boat and trailer dry thoroughly in the sun for two to four days.
  • Inspect hull and drive unit periodically and scrape off any mussels. Hot water pumped through an engine's intake periodically helps prevent mussel growth inside engine cooling systems.
  • Antifouling paints help prevent attachment of zebra mussels. Consult a marine dealer for advice on their use. Hull waxes with a high silicone content do not prevent attachment, but may make mussels easier to remove.

Missourians Hit the Trail for Better Prairies

The Missouri Grassland Coalition has announced plans for a three-month, 565-mile Lek Trek, a journey involving private landowners, conservation groups and interested citizens. Their common goal will be ensuring the future of Missouri's native grasslands and the unique creatures that depend on grassland for survival.

The greater prairie chicken, an endangered species in Missouri, was selected as the mascot for the Lek Trek. However, the prairie chicken is only one of hundreds of unusual and beautiful plants and animals that thrive on prairie land. Rare and stunningly beautiful butterflies and nearly half the bird species that migrate between North and Central/South America each year can be seen on prairies in the summer.

The Lek Trek will begin July 22 at the Missouri-Iowa border near Hatfield and head south. On Sept. 23, a second group will begin a northward trek from the Arkansas Border near Southwest City. The two groups will rendezvous at Prairie State Park near Lamar Oct. 14.

In between, participants will stroll through unspoiled prairie lands, learn about prairie ecology from experts and take part in a variety of natural and cultural history events at 16 prairie-country communities. They also will raise money pledged in return for completing trek segments.

The Lek Trek will focus on a different segment of the trail each week. One day of each week--usually a Saturday--will be set aside for actually hiking a 3- to 5-mile segment of the overall trek. The public will be encouraged to take part in these "hike days," which will end at the site of a special event.

Another day each week will be set aside as "learner day," when naturalists will share their knowledge with hikers, school classes, Scout groups and conservation groups. Additional special events will be planned along the Lek Trek route.

Lek Trek organizers hope to increase awareness of the benefits of prairie among landowners and the public. Toward that goal, funds from trek pledges will support grassland habitat work in critical areas throughout the state.

To learn more about the Lek Trek, visit the website, write Lek Trek Chairperson Sharron Gough at P.O. Box 106, El Dorado Springs, MO 64744, or call her at (417) 876-3388. You can send

E-mails to <goughs@mail.conservation.state.mo.us>.

Centennial Forests: First Fire Tower (1920s)

By the 1920s, most of Missouri's forests had been cut, and the big mills closed, leaving unemployed mill workers to scratch out a living in the rocky Ozarks. They burned the hills each spring and fall in an effort to kill sprouts, snakes and ticks and encourage grass for their open-range livestock.

Missouri's forests received no legislative attention until 1925, when the General Assembly added a Department of Forestry to the State Board of Agriculture. Among other duties, the new department was to "study the causes of fires in the woods . . . and devise means for their control." The ambitious new program was appropriated the grand sum of $10,000, but the governor vetoed it. Private citizens and wood industries raised the $10,000 and turned it over to the department.

Paul Dunn was named district forester, under the supervision of State Forester Frederick Dunlap. Dunn set up shop in Ellington in a two-room frame office. His main job was fire prevention.

In 1926 Missouri's first fire tower was built on what is now Deer Run Conservation Area. There was no organized fire protection except on state-owned land. Dunn recalled that about three-fourths of the Ozarks burned twice each year.

Dunn visited every school district in Reynolds and surrounding counties showing a film--"Trees of Righteousness"--and educating school children not to burn the woods. Then, in 1933, the legislature reorganized the Department of Agriculture and abolished the position of state forester. In his final report, Dunlap concluded that controlling forest fires in the Ozarks was impossible.

For more information on Deer Run, obtain a copy of Historic Driving Tour of Deer Run from your local forester or write Centennial Forests, Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City MO 65102-0180.

-- Bruce Palmer

Lots of Kids Chasing Rainbows

Daily trout tag sales figures from Missouri's four trout parks show that kids love chasing rainbows. During the 1999 fishing season, more than 80,000 anglers age 15 and younger bought $2 Youth Trout Tags. That's almost one in every five trout park anglers. In return, they got the chance to catch millions of scrappy, tasty rainbow trout stocked in the chilly, azure waters of Bennett Spring,

Montauk, Maramec and Roaring River parks. You can learn more about these and other trout fishing opportunities by requesting a copy of the publication

"Missouri Trout Fishing" from Fisheries Division, Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180.

Kansas City pulls out all the stops for Earth Day Birthday

Earth Day was conceived three decades ago as a novel celebration, but will be even more special when Kansas Citians celebrate its 30th anniversary this spring.

Earth Day 2000 organizers in the Kansas City metropolitan area are planning 30 events in 30 days. The celebration will kick off April 22 with the Walk for Environmental Excellence and the Party for the Planet at the Kansas City Zoo. The first week (April 23-29) of activities will center on schools. The home will be the focus in the second week (April 30-May 6). Business themes will highlight the events in the third week (May 7-13), while the final week (May 14-20) will be more celebratory in nature. For a complete listing of activities, visit Kansas City's Earth Day website. Or call Bridging the Gap, (816) 561-1087.

Crime doesn't pay--over and over again

Spotlighting and baiting violations proved popular for poachers in the 1999 firearms deer season, as evidenced in conservation agents' reports. Agents in the Ozark Protection Region made 21 deer-baiting arrests, including 11 on opening day. Eight of those were from Arkansas.

Agents in the Ozarks made 41 spotlighting arrests during the 11-day season, including one persistent poacher who was nabbed twice in the same night. The news was especially bad for one of the spotlighters (another Arkansan), who not only cracked up his vehicle in a chase, but had his parole on a prior felony conviction revoked.

Missouri Otters to be Featured in National Geographic Special

Missouri's successful river otter restoration program will be featured in a National Geographic documentary premiering April 23. "Otter Chaos" was filmed entirely in Missouri and incorporates remarkable underwater footage from National Geographic film crews, the Conservation Department and retired Conservation Department cinematographer Glenn Chambers.The half-hour documentary will air at 7 p.m. April 23 on CNBC. It will appear again at 7 p.m. April 29. Featured in the film are three generations of captive otters raised by Chambers and his wife, Jeannie.

The Conservation Department will satellite broadcast to schools a special live presentation by Chambers and his otters April 25. Teachers interested in tuning into this show should contact Sandy Payne at (573) 751-4115, ext. 807.

Hunters can get Snow Goose Location Reports

Missouri hunters can harvest snow geese through the end of April. But snow geese are footloose, moving from one wetland area to another and eventually north, out of Missouri. To help hunters locate snow goose concentrations, the Conservation Department provides a snow goose report on its web page. To get the latest information about areas where snow geese are, go online. Periodic updates continue through the current snow goose conservation action, which ends April 30.