News and Almanac

Bois D' Arc area hosts Great Outdoors Day

Outdoor recreational opportunities are abundant in the Ozarks, but finding out what's available and where to go can sometimes be complicated.

People can get information about a variety of outdoor activities Sept. 27 at Great Outdoors Day. This event, sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation, will run from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Bois D'Arc Conservation Area in Greene County, northwest of Springfield.

The Conservation Department holds Great Outdoors Day each year to observe National Hunting and Fishing Day. The event includes demonstrations of fishing, as well as rifle, archery, air rifle, black powder, trap and skeet shooting. Many of these activities offer hands-on opportunities. Anglers wishing to take part in the fishing sessions need to bring their own fishing equipment and fishing permits.

Attending Great Outdoors Day is a great way to learn about other types of outdoors recreation. Canoeing demonstrations will be offered, along with sessions about how and where to go floating, camping, hiking and bird watching in Missouri. Literature will be available to help beginners get started in these hobbies.

Nature hikes will highlight some of the native plant life and natural features of the 3,172-acre Bois D'Arc Conservation Area. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts will find opportunities to fulfill merit badge requirements.

For information about Great Outdoors Day, call (417) 895-6880 or (417) 742 4361.

Endangered Species Walk/Run set for Oct. 4

Whether you run, walk or stroll, you'll get a designer T-shirt for taking part in the fifth annual Endangered Species Walk/Run Oct. 4 on the KATY Trail.

The event will include 5K and 10K runs and a 5K walk, all starting at 9 a.m. Event headquarters will be at the North Jefferson City Pavilion at the intersection of highways 63 and 54. Participants will receive long-sleeve T shirts featuring artwork by Conservation Department artist Mark Raithel. The artwork portrays species of conservation concern that inhabit Missouri's big rivers and their banks.

Money raised will go to the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation. The foundation will channel the money into habitat restoration, research and education projects.

Registration costs $15 for adults and $10 for children age 14 and younger. Forms are available from Endangered Species Walk/Run, Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102 0180, or by calling (573) 522-4115, ext. 3807. You also can download the registration form at online, keyword "walkrun."

Conservation trails available for adoption

Missourians who enjoy hiking trails and equestrian trails on conservation areas can enhance their enjoyment of these resources through the Missouri Department of Conservation's Adopt-A-Trail Program.

The Conservation Department manages 346 miles of multi-use trails open to hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. Another 290 miles of trail are either disabled-accessible or open to hiking only. All these trails require maintenance.

If you have a special interest in one trail, you can help keep it in top condition by volunteering for the new Adopt-A-Trail program. Volunteers monitor, maintain and enhance trails and trailhead facilities. Common tasks include clearing debris that accumulates on trail surfaces, cutting brush and picking up trash.

To adopt a trail, call (573) 522-4115, ext. 3636, or e-mail kightt@mdc.mo.gov.

National conference promotes Missouri's outdoors

Missouri's outdoor resources and issues were the center of national attention June 14-18, when the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA) held its annual conference in Columbia. The more than 800 attendees included newspaper and magazine writers and editors, radio and television producers, photographers, artists and other communications professionals. Speakers included Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Steve Williams, National Wildlife Refuge Chief Bill Hartwig, Lewis and Clark Historian Gary Moulton, National Rifle Association President Kayne Robinson and American Rivers President Rebecca Wodder.

The conference included opportunities for communicators to sample Missouri outdoor activities while gathering material for publication or broadcast. Attendees also got a close look at locally produced outdoor products and services. Tourism officials expect the event to generate positive publicity about Missouri for years to come.

OWAA has held its conference in Missouri twice in the past, in St. Louis in 1938 and in Rolla in 1955. Three Missourians have served as the group's president: the late Buck Rogers of Columbia; the late Conservation Department Information Chief Dan Saults of Branson; and retired Conservation Department Publicist Joel Vance of Russellville. Retired Conservation Department Fisheries Research Biologist Spencer Turner of Columbia currently is OWAA's second vice-president, and Conservation Department News Services Coordinator Jim Low of Jefferson City is third vice-president.

The pluses and minuses of endangered species report

Missouri's latest status report on threatened and endangered species contains some encouraging news and some sobering developments. Among the good news:

+ Field workers have found a new population of the state endangered, federally threatened decurrent fall aster, comprising several hundred plants.

+ Fisheries biologists at Chesapeake Hatchery raised and released more than 100,000 juvenile Neosho muckets, a freshwater mussel that is a state species of concern, in western Missouri.

+ Field workers found nine new sites with populations of the state and federally endangered Hine's emerald dragonfly and are working to build positive relationships with owners of private land where the insects live.

+ Two citizens have enrolled land in Partners for Wildlife projects in areas with populations of the state endangered, federally threatened Niangua darter.

+ Nearly 3,000 pallid sturgeon were released into the Missouri River near Boonville, and the Conservation Department continued to work to encourage the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to adopt river management practices calculated to help the state and federally endangered fish.

+ Both summer nesting and winter populations of bald eagles continued to soar.

+ Peregrine falcons, endangered in Missouri and listed as a species of concern at the national level, had a banner year for nesting here. The Kansas City area had two active nests with four eggs in each. One nest failed, but the other fledged all four chicks. Five pairs of falcons in the St. Louis area produced nine young.

+ Gray bat numbers are down from recent years, but they are higher than 20 years ago.

Less encouraging were the following reports:

- A naturally occurring population of running buffalo clover (state and federally endangered) apparently is extirpated, and another showed no plants for the second year in a row.

- Curtis' pearlymussel, also state and federally endangered, seems to be extirpated in Missouri. None have been found since 1993.

- The state and federally endangered Topeka shiner has not been found in a watershed it once inhabited, but captive propagation efforts continue.

- The hellbender, a giant salamander that is state endangered and a candidate for federally endangered listing, is declining throughout its North American range, but even more rapidly in Missouri.

- The state endangered greater prairie chicken continues on a steep decline that began in the early 1970s.

- The state and federally endangered interior least tern had 13 nesting colonies and 712 nests on the lower Mississippi River in and adjacent to Missouri, but no chicks were counted due to high water levels.

- The state and federally endangered Indiana bat continued to decline in Missouri, despite protection of wintering caves and increasing understanding of summer habitat needs.

Lewis and Clark Conservation Grants

Schools and communities interested in sponsoring programs to help their students and neighbors learn about the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery expedition and its connection to Missouri's outdoor resources can apply for financial assistance from the Missouri Department of Conservation. The Department's new Lewis and Clark Conservation Grant Program will provide a total of $250,000 to help fund Lewis and Clark bicentennial projects that connect citizens with our natural resources.

Schools can receive grants up to $750 to fund education activities. Projects eligible for school grants include field trips to Lewis and Clark sites and conservation and natural areas, instructional materials and teaching aidsLocal government agencies, organizations and individuals sponsoring Lewis and Clark commemorative public events or projects are eligible for community grant awards of up to $15,000. Community grant funds can be used for projects and events that promote effective stewardship of Missouri's outdoor resources, engage citizens with the natural resources of the state, promote eco-tourism, establish or improve facilities for bicentennial celebrations or enhance nature-based use of sites.

For more information, write Lewis and Clark Conservation Grants, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180, go on the Web and enter keywords "LC Grant" or call (573) 522-4115, ext. 3370. The application deadline for school grants is Oct. 1. The deadline for submitting applications for community grants is Nov. 14.

Mississippi River legends revived

Clarksville, Mo., is gearing up for the ninth annual Big River Days Sept. 20-21. The event focuses on the history, lore and life of the river, and features live reenactments and programs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Clarksville has one of the last riverfront parks on the Mississippi, so visitors can enjoy the river rolling by while watching British military reenactments, a fur trader's camp and a large mobile aquarium of big-river fish. Artisans fill the river town and will demonstrate blacksmithing and other traditional crafts. Special programs include kids' crafts and live music. Mississippi River exhibits focus on river wildlife and recreation.

The event is located in Riverfront Park, one block east of Highway 79. For more information, contact the Clarksville Visitor Center, (573) 242-3132.

New Missouri rivers guide

If you have enjoyed the Conservation Department classic, "Missouri Ozark Waterways" but wished for a more comprehensive guide to Show-Me-State paddle sports, check out "A Paddler's Guide to Missouri." The new book includes all the southern Missouri streams covered by the first book, plus the Missouri River and five other streams in the northern half of the state.

The 94-page book features 58 detailed maps of stream segments on 43 rivers, from the headwaters of the Grand River in northwestern Missouri to the St. Francis River in the southeast. Highways, accesses, campgrounds and mileage between such landmarks are included. The guide also has sections on trip planning, equipment, river-running pointers, difficulty measures and key points of trespass law for floaters to understand.

The spiral-bound book sells for $6 and is available at nature centers and regional Conservation Department regional offices statewide. You can buy a copy through The Nature Shop online, by calling toll free (877) 521-8632, or by writing to The Nature Shop, Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180. To avoid shipping charges, buy your copy at a conservation nature center or Conservation Department regional office.

New CD explores Ozark history and music

A newly released folk music CD, "Fiddles and Forests," recounts in song and story the saga of the Scots-Irish who settled Missouri's Ozarks.

This spirited mix of traditional Celtic jigs, foot-stomping Ozark bluegrass, and narrative enhanced by nature sounds, creates a musical sound stage that recalls the journey of settlers from the lowlands of Scotland to the shores of America and on to the Missouri Ozarks. The story follows these hardy folk through the generations as they tame a wilderness, build homes, and forge a unique culture from their heritage and the land.

More than 20 songs highlight the musical talents of noted folk minstrels Cathy Barton, Dave Para and others.

"Fiddles and Forests" is a two-disc set. Disc one is "The Story and Songs." Disc two features the music alone. The set sells for $10, plus shipping and handling and sales tax where applicable. You can buy a copy through The Nature Shop online, by calling toll free (877) 521-8632, or by writing to The Nature Shop, Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180. To avoid shipping charges, buy your copy at a conservation nature center or Conservation Department regional office.

Otter harvest sets a record

Missouri's 2002-2003 river otter harvest was the largest on record, topping 2,200 statewide and concentrating the harvest in areas where the water loving mammals are most abundant.

The statewide harvest was 2,253, up from 1,976 in the 2001-2002 season and 1,378 in 2000-2001. The Ozark Plateau led regional harvest totals with 432 otters taken by trappers last season. Texas County topped county harvest totals with 73 otters taken.

The current system of otter trapping zones, with different season lengths and bag limits, is designed to regulate otter numbers where necessary. Due to the abundance of otters in the James River and Crane Creek, these watersheds have been included in Zone E, which allows any number of otters to be taken during the 2003 season.

Zone E now includes all of Webster, Douglas, Ozark, Taney, Stone and Christian counties. It also includes Barry County east of Hwy. 37; Lawrence County south of Hwy. 60, east of Hwy. 39 and south of I-44; and Greene County south of I-44 and east of Hwy. 65.

Report hellbender sightings

Missouri's largest salamander, the hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis) is in decline. Conservation Department herpetologist Jeff Briggler hopes to discover why, and he needs your help.

Hellbenders live under flat rocks in swift, clear streams. They inhabit streams in the Gasconade, Osage, Meramec, Black and White River watersheds in Missouri. Surveys conducted on these rivers show a dramatic decline in hellbender numbers in recent years. Since the 1970s, the Conservation Department has documented a 77-percent decrease in the animal's numbers.

One of the biggest sources of concern about the hellbender is the fact that recent surveys have failed to discover young specimens or other signs of reproduction. The species has practically disappeared from the streams it used to inhabit in Arkansas.

Young hellbenders obtain oxygen with gills. This makes them sensitive to changes in water quality. They don't reproduce until they are several years old, so the death of adults seriously affects hellbender populations.

Hellbenders have dark mottled gray to brown skin that is so wrinkled that their flat bodies resemble wads of wet prunes. Their tiny, dark eyes are practically invisible on top of their heads. Although they are harmless, their strange appearance sometimes prompts people to kill them.

Briggler wants to hear from people who encounter hellbenders. He asks anglers and giggers who catch hellbenders by accident to release them unharmed and to report the sightings.

"They look kind of gross, so if you don't want to touch it, just cut the line and let it go," Briggler said. "Most times the hook will work its way out, and the animal will survive just fine."

Briggler is only interested in recent sightings. Reports from years past won't reveal anything about the animal's current status. To report a recent sighting of a hellbender, contact: Missouri Department of Conservation, Resource Science Division, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO. 65102-0180, phone: (573) 522-4115, ext. 3201, e-mail Jeff.Briggler@mdc.mo.gov.

Caviar trafficker gets 21 months in prison

A Russian immigrant who pled guilty to importing and exporting caviar without a permit and violating endangered species laws received a 21-month federal jail sentence earlier this year. His case has implications for Missouri's endangered pallid and lake sturgeons and the more common shovelnose sturgeon.

A federal court in Brooklyn, N.Y., fined Arkady Panchernikov $400,000 in connection with caviar trade that prosecutors said was worth more than $600,000. Panchernikov admitted he falsely labeled medium-grade caviar for sale as higher-priced product.

The best caviar is made with eggs from Russian beluga sturgeon. However, the collapse of the Caspian Sea sturgeon fishery due to overfishing has led to increasing use of eggs from sturgeon from the United States, including Missouri. Some of this trade is legal and some is illegal, depending on the state where it occurs and the species of fish involved.

Missouri's Wildlife Code allows the harvest of shovelnose sturgeon. It protects pallid and lake sturgeon. However, the high value of sturgeon eggs is a powerful incentive to poachers.

Although Panchernikov's crimes occurred far from Missouri, they have implications for Missouri fish. Mislabeling medium-grade sturgeon eggs as expensive caviar drives up the price that commercial anglers can demand for eggs from sturgeon taken from the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.

Scouts to relive Lewis & Clark adventure

Boy Scouts from across the nation are invited to relive the excitement of Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery at two events in central Missouri next year.

The fun will start with the Cupbord Creek Encampment on Memorial Day weekend, May 28-30, at the Ike Skelton Training Site Headquarters of the Missouri National Guard east of Jefferson City. The 30-acre Missouri River front campsite will include an authentic Indian village, an 1804-era camp established by the official Lewis & Clark Bicentennial St. Charles Corps of Discovery Re-enactors, pioneer crafts and the Conservation Department's 28-foot dugout canoes. Scouts will be part of the show, with a canoe building competition.

Additional entertainment will include pistol and saber demonstrations by the Fort Riley Mounted Cavalry Honor Guard and a program by the Pony Express Council Tribe of Mic-O-Say Dancers. National Geographic's IMAX film about the Lewis and Clark expedition will be shown in the National Guard auditorium.

Cub Scouts are invited to attend the event all day May 29. The event will be open to the public from 1-5 p.m. that day.

The fun will continue the following weekend, June 4-6, at the Franklin Island Rendezvous. The Conservation Department will host the event at Franklin Island Conservation Area on the Missouri River between Boonville and New Franklin. Planners say the event may include a 6-mile levee hike along the river, black-powder shooting, dugout canoe making, fishing and Corps of Discovery-theme campfire programs.

Information about the two events is available online or from Boy Scouts Great Rivers Council, 1203 Fay St. Columbia, MO 65201, (800) 726-8852, ext. 201, BSA-GRC@BSAmail.org.