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Lowell Mohler appointed to Conservation Commission

Gov. Bob Holden recently appointed Lowell Mohler of Jefferson City to a six-year term on the Missouri Conservation Commission. Mohler replaces Howard Wood of Bonne Terre, whose six-year term expired in July. Pending approval by the state legislature, Mohler will serve until July 2009.

Mohler, 67, is a farmer and a native of Oregon County. He has a proven record of conserving forests, fish and wildlife and a history of building bridges between conservation and agriculture.

Mohler holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Missouri's College of Agriculture. Since January 2001 he has served as director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture. He also has served as chief operating officer of the Missouri Farm Bureau, senior vice president and national board member of Ducks Unlimited, member of the Conservation Federation of Missouri and chairman of the University of Missouri School of Natural Resources Advisory Council.

Mohler has received the G. Andy Runge Award from the Missouri Chapter of the Wildlife Society and was named Master Conservationist by the Conservation Commission in 2001. He called the appointment "a natural fit. "

The Conservation Commission and Conservation Department Director John Hoskins welcomed Mohler's appointment. "We've had a good working relationship with the Department of Agriculture under Lowell's leadership, " Hoskins said. "He will help foster the strong connection between conservation and agriculture. "

The Conservation Commission, which oversees the management of Missouri's forest, fish and wildlife resources, is bipartisan, with two Democratic and two Republican members appointed by the governor. Mohler, a Republican, joins Commissioners Stephen Bradford of Cape Girardeau (D), Cynthia Metcalfe of St. Louis (D) and Anita Gorman of Kansas City (R).

Green space conference headed to St. Louis

Missourians who want to keep their city landscapes green and inviting will be interested in the Green Space Design 2003 National Conference in St. Louis Oct. 20-21.

The conference, "Creating Patterns of Open Space: What Plans Are You Crafting for the Future?, " is designed to help attendees meet the challenge of pursuing growth while preserving cultural, ecological, developmental, agricultural and recreational land values. Speakers will include experts on open space planning, environmentally sensitive development and improved regional patterns of growth.

Conference information is availableonline or by calling (801) 483-2100. The event is sponsored by the Center for Green Space Design, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping communities find practical ways to address open-space issues.

Show-Me eagles thriving

The number of eagles nesting in Missouri continues to rise, and the state's winter eagle population has stabilized.

The eagle count conducted early this year found more than 2, 000 bald eagles in Missouri. An informal survey of eagle nests conducted this spring showed nearly 90 pairs of eagles nesting. In recent years, the number of nesting eagle pairs has increased by about 10 per year.

Eagles generally build their nests in the tops of the tallest trees along rivers or reservoirs. Enlarged annually, a bald eagle nest can become the largest of that built by any North American bird. The record is 20 feet deep and 10 feet wide. It weighed two tons.

The Conservation Department began bald eagle restoration in 1981. DDT and other chemicals contaminated eagles' food supplies, poisoning the birds or causing them to lay defective eggs. Loss of nesting habitat due to land use changes also reduced the number of areas suitable for eagle nesting. The banning of DDT and other pesticides and the reintroduction of bald eagles throughout the Midwest have helped the national bird make a comeback.

Win cash in Arbor Day poster contest

The Missouri Department of Conservation and the Missouri Community Forestry Council are asking all fifth-graders in Missouri to showcase their artistic talents by creating posters for the 2004 National Arbor Day poster contest.

The theme of the contest is "Trees are Terrific... in Cities and Towns. " Through the contest, students will learn about the importance of trees to the environment.

Each school's winning poster will advance to the state competition. The state winner will receive a $50 savings bond, and a 6- to 12-foot tree will be planted on the grounds of the winner's school. He or she may also attend Gov. Bob Holden's signing of the Missouri Arbor Day Proclamation at the Capitol in Jefferson City and enter the national contest. The national winner will be announced on National Arbor Day, April 30, 2004. The winner will receive a $1, 000 savings bond. The winner's teacher will receive $200 for classroom materials.

The deadline for state contest submissions is Feb. 13. Packets with contest information will be sent to all fifth-grade art teachers. Teachers will receive free curriculum materials, including in-depth lesson plans, hands-on activities and contest information. Any fifth-grade teacher can obtain a packet by contacting Donna Baldwin, P. O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102, Donna. Baldwin@mdc. mo. gov.

Grants available for Lewis & Clark events

Missourians interested in sponsoring educational programs about outdoor resources and the Lewis and Clark expedition can get financial help from the Missouri Department of Conservation. The Lewis and Clark Conservation Grant program provides assistance for Lewis and Clark bicentennial projects that connect citizens with our natural resources.

Local government agencies, organizations and individuals sponsoring Lewis and Clark projects are eligible for grants of up to $15, 000. Projects that secure matching funds will receive preference over those that do not have matching funds.

Community projects and events eligible for grants include those that promote resource stewardship, connect citizens with natural resources, promote eco-tourism or establish or improve facilities to be used during the bicentennial celebrations.

To apply for a Lewis and Clark Conservation Grant visit us online and use the key words "lc grants," or call (573) 522-4115, ext. 3370. The deadline for grant applications is Nov. 14.

Roadside plantings provide savings and environmental benefits

A cooperative program between the Missouri departments of Conservation and Transportation (MODOT) seeks to spruce up highway roadsides with native plants.

Part of the money for roadside planting is being provided by a $1 million U. S. Department of Transportation Roadside Enhancement Grant. The Conservation Department is providing $200, 000 in matching funds for the program.

Besides making roadways more attractive, the native grass and wildflower plantings will help the Conservation Department and MODOT meet important agency objectives while saving money. Native plants control erosion, and they save money because they require less frequent mowing. Using native plants also helps preserve the states' biological diversity.

Eight highways have been selected for native plant conversions. The roadside at the junction of Highway 291 and I-70 in Jackson County, I-35 near Bethany, Highway 71 north of Lamar, and Highway 54 near Kingdom City are scheduled for planting this fall. In a few years, motorists on these stretches of highway will be able to enjoy native grasses and a showy mix of wildflowers from late spring through early fall.

Some Missourians expressed concerns that native plants would attract deer to the roadways. However, research from several states shows that such plantings do not increase deer-vehicle collisions. In fact, collisions may be less frequent because deer are attracted to freshly mowed grass, and native plants require less mowing.

The same contractors who perform native plant installation on highways are ready to serve private landowners, too. If you are interested in establishing native plants on your property, visit the Grow Native! website. The site has information that can help you design a landscaping plan, locate nurseries that sell native plants and find knowledgeable contractors.

New patch identifies generous hunters

Every year, Missouri hunters donate tons of lean, savory venison to help people in need. This year, they will get something in return.

Every hunter who donates venison through an approved meat processor will receive a 2003 Share the Harvest patch. The iron-on patch, worn on a hunting cap, vest or coat, will mark the wearer as not only a successful deer hunter, but a generous one, too.

Last year alone, Missouri hunters donated 48 tons of venison through approved locker plants. The meat goes to food banks for distribution to the needy.

This year, participating processors will give every hunter who donates venison a Share the Harvest patch. Those who donate whole deer also can get a $25 rebate coupon. The Conservation Federation of Missouri will redeem the coupon to help pay for processing.

Although Share the Harvest is a statewide program, it is organized and operated at the local level by civic clubs or sporting groups.

The first step in setting up a Share the Harvest program is to find at least one deer processor and one charitable agency to participate in the program. The organizing group then contacts the local conservation agent who certifies the local program.

To learn if your area has a Share the Harvest program, or to create one, contact the nearest Conservation Department regional office. And wear your patch with pride while spreading the word that Missouri deer hunters are helping the needy.

Get your Trees of Missouri book signed

Don Kurz, author of Trees of Missouri, will present a slide show and talk about interesting features of various trees at a book signing from 6:30 to 9 p. m. Oct. 10 at Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center. He will talk about plant names, their medicinal uses and wildlife benefits and his new book, as well as his other books: Ozark Wildflowers, Scenic Driving the Ozarks, including the Ouachita Mountains, and Shrubs and Woody Vines of Missouri. For reservations, call (314) 301-1500.

Nature quilting program off and running

The Wildlifers Program at the G. Andy Runge Conservation Nature Center (CNC) in Jefferson City is truly a patchwork affair. The program, which began in 1998, blends nature learning with the art and craft of quilt making.

The group has the distinction of being one of Missouri's most exclusive conservation programs. You have to be at least 50 years old to join.

Nevertheless, The program has grown quickly. This year the Runge Center expanded its nature quilting program to four groups, with a total of 140 participants. Furthermore, Powder Valley CNC in Kirkwood and Burr Oak Woods CNC in Blue Springs now have Wildlifers groups, too.

The appeal of the program is threefold. First, it's educational. Participants learn about topics ranging from raccoons and wildflowers to the Lewis and Clark bicentennial in the monthly gatherings. They also enjoy socializing with others who share interests in nature and the very practical craft of quilt making. Finally, their activities produce tangible reminders of lessons learned and friendships made.

At each meeting, Wildlifers receive the materials needed to make a quilt block. Informative programs help them learn about the subjects of the blocks, while busy hands fashion them. Continued work at home turns the blocks into heirloom-quality bedcovers for the makers' homes, friends, nieces, nephews, grandchildren and other lucky recipients.

In recent years, the blocks made over the course of a year have revolved around a central theme, such as wildflowers. This spring, Wildlifers completed a series focusing on the Lewis and Clark expedition. An April exhibition showcasing the resulting quilts at the Runge CNC drew nearly 1, 000 visitors.

The programs appeal apparently extends well beyond the Jefferson City area. Runge Wildlifers participants come from as far away as St. Louis, Rolla and Sedalia. Program coordinators Nadine Marshall and Carolyn Brunner also have received inquiries from Powder Valley CNC in Kirkwood, Burr Oak Woods CNC in Blue Springs, Oxley Nature Center in Louisiana, and even from the state of California.

Saline County farmer makes room for quail

David Copeland faces the same pressures as other farmers. Unlike many others, however, he has a thriving quail population on his land. The difference is that he believes quail are worth a little room.

It's not that Copeland can afford to think exclusively of quail. Like anyone else, he has to watch the bottom line, but he has found ways to make room for game birds while keeping his land profitable.

Copeland and his wife raised their two sons on the same farm his father operated in Saline County. Aerial photos of the area from 20 and 50 years ago show striking changes. Fields increased. Fencerows disappeared. Pastures swallowed up small wood lots. Ballooning crop fields pinched back brushy draws to pencil-thin lines around creeks, ponds and roads as farmers plowed up wildlife habitat to get more cropland. Copeland doubts the wisdom of that trade-off.

"I don't see the sense in mowing or plowing right up to the edge of ditches and fencerows, "he said. "A lot of that is marginal land, and it doesn't add up to any significant acreage. "

When the federal Conservation Reserve Program came along in the 1980s, Copeland saw a way to take this marginal land back out of production. Doing so yielded more than quail habitat. Native grass waterways and permanently vegetated filter strips helped him stop soil erosion, and that improved water quality in his ponds.

"I guarantee you, these 22 acres that I have in filter strips are making me more money than I made farming them, " he says. "Too many farmers never bother to put a pencil to the economics of clearing and farming marginal land. "

There is a lot farmers can do for quail that doesn't require much expense or loss of productivity. Copeland has gone from having one or two coveys each year to finding between five and eight. He considers that a good return on a little investment.

"I figure if I can't save up an acre here and there for quail and deer then what's the use of being a farmer?" Copeland asked. "I get as much enjoyment from wildlife as I do from my work. "

Copeland said his family spent every weekend hunting or fishing when he was growing up. Fewer farm families do that today, he added, and so wildlife isn't as important to them as it used to be.

"I farm three times the acreage that my dad did to make a living, and I have a lot less free time, " Copeland said. "I think that's partly why people 'clean out' their land. That's naturally what you are going to do if you are under pressure to get every bit of production you can from your land, and you don't have time to enjoy the benefits that go with brushy draws.

"I figure I've replaced as much, if not more, habitat than I've taken out, "he said. "A farmer's motto ought to be to leave his ground in better shape than when he got it. I want to do the same for wildlife. An acre here and there isn't going to break me. Meanwhile, we get to kill turkeys every year, and my boys come home to hunt. "

There's something fishy about these hawks

Call them Cingular and Nokia. The osprey chicks growing up in a unique location in northeastern Missouri are the latest characters in a saga that began nearly a decade ago.

Senior Conservation Agent Tom Skinner spotted their nest last spring on a cellular telephone transmission tower south of Jacksonville. The location was unusual because ospreys - also known as fish hawks - normally nest in trees within sight of large bodies of water.

The tower was miles from the nearest spot where the Conservation Department reintroduced ospreys several years ago. However, it was close enough to a private lake to provide food for the growing chicks.

The ospreys' willingness to branch out from the original release site is encouraging. As ospreys released by the Conservation Department disperse and multiply, so do opportunities to see them.

Other osprey reintroduction areas included Mark Twain Lake near Hannibal, Pony Express Lake near St. Joseph, Montrose Lake near Clinton and Truman Lake at Warsaw. If you visit these areas in the summer, look skyward now and then. You might catch a glimpse of the dividends accruing from Missouri's restoration investment.

Surplus property auction set for Oct. 18

All-terrain vehicles, pickup trucks, boats, farm equipment and office furniture are among items to be auctioned off Oct. 18 at Brookfield.

Conservation Department auctions typically include sport-utility vehicles, sedans, tractors, lawn mowers and office equipment, such as copiers, furniture, calculators, cameras and air conditioners. Auction items will be on display from 8 a. m. until 5 p. m. Oct. 17 and at 8 a. m. Oct. 18. The auctions begin at 10 a. m. All property must be paid for on the day of the sale. Acceptable forms of payment include cash, MasterCard, Visa and personal checks with proper identification. For lists of sale items, call the Conservation Department General Services Division at (573) 522 4115, ext. 3279 or 3283.

Stay safe during fall turkey season

Both hunters and non-hunters should keep safety in mind during the fall firearms turkey hunting season, which runs Oct. 13-26.

Most of Missouri's firearms-related turkey hunting accidents occur during the spring season, mainly because far fewer Missourians take part in the fall event. The nature of the sport--fully camouflaged hunters sitting perfectly still while trying to sound like turkeys--makes safety-consciousness extremely important. And because many people besides turkey hunters also enjoy being outdoors in October, birdwatchers, hikers, nature photographers and anglers all need to be cautious.

If you are a turkey hunter, always wear a fluorescent orange vest and cap when walking to and from hunting spots. Choose hunting sites that offer good visibility in front of you, and if you see another hunter, shout to identify yourself. Never wave. The movement of your camouflaged form could draw fire from a careless shooter. When hunting, sit with your back to a tree trunk or other protective cover.

Most important, before pulling the trigger, identify your target positively and look beyond it to ensure that no people or livestock are in the line of fire. If you kill a turkey, put it in an orange vest or other covering before leaving the woods. Carrying an exposed turkey over your shoulder can cause you to be mistaken for game.

If you aren't a turkey hunter, you should also wear orange garments when in the woods during fall turkey season. Avoid wearing red, white or blue garments, as these colors are seen on adult turkey's heads and can lead to being mistaken for game. Tie a bell to your belt to alert hunters to your approach, and never try to sneak up on a calling turkey. Even if the sound is coming from a real bird, entering an area with turkeys increases the risk of intruding on a hunt.

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