News and Almanac

COLUMBIA BOTTOM CONSERVATION AREA: Confluence of art and nature

Columbia Bottom Conservation Area is where the Missouri and Mississippi rivers come together, and where art and the outdoors meet.

The Missouri Department of Conservation has built nine "Exploration Stations" that highlight the habitats of Columbia Bottom Conservation Area. The exploration stations include colorful informational panels as well as mosaic work by two St. Louis artists, Catherine Magel and Mort Hill. The mosaics include stone, glass and hand-made ceramic pieces. These works of art enhance the site and help visitors understand the value of floodplain habitats.

The curving, S-shaped, concrete walls of the exploration stations mimic the flow of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. The stations are located within the habitat they interpret. Graphic panels explain management practices used, such as regulating the water flow in wetlands and prescribed fire for prairies. Vibrant images showcase species from each habitat.

A "Passport Book," available from the visitor center, will guide you through each habitat. You can make rubbings from a piece of the mosaic at each station to stamp your passport book.

Sidewalks to the exploration stations are wide, fairly level and ADA accessible. --Krista Kovach

Tree and shrub seedlings are a bundle of fun

If you are nutty for wildlife, or if you think birds are simply the berries, you ought to visit the Conservation Department Web site and order some tree or shrub seedlings. George O. White State Forest Nursery is open for business.

You can order seedlings through April 30 online. You can choose from 12 species of oak trees, six species of pines as well as black walnut, pecan and more than 20 shrub species.

Regular plant bundles contain 25 seedlings and sell for $3 to $12 per bundle. This year, for the first time, you will be able to buy elderberry plants. Water tupelo and buttonbush, offered for the first time last year, are again available.

Blackberry seedlings are especially plentiful this year, making it easy for landowners to ensure food for birds and pies for themselves. Also abundant are hazelnut seedlings, which have been scarce in recent years.

Special bundles available this year include:

  • The Conservation Bundle, with five seedlings of each of six species.
  • The Wildlife Cover Bundle, with 10 seedlings of each of five species.
  • The Large Nut Tree Bundle, with 15 large seedlings each of pecan and black walnut.
  • The Quail Cover Bundle, with 10 seedlings of each of five species.

Special bundles sell for $12 to $16.

Three birds with one stone

The Conservation Department wants some work done. It also wanted to help city residents connect with nature. To accomplish both goals at the same time, the Department worked with the Missouri Mentoring Partnership. The two groups then worked with the Missouri Division of Youth Services, the Bootheel Youth Museum and the East Missouri Action Agency to identify youngsters who would benefit from mentoring.

As a result, three supervised crews of young men and women built trails, planted trees and built birdhouses for eight weeks last summer. They worked in the Cape Girardeau, New Madrid and Marble Hill areas. Their biggest project was converting an old baseball field to a sand prairie.

The program was created in 2000 by the Missouri Legislature, but it was never funded. The Conservation Department liked the idea of a Youth Service and Conservation Corps so much that it used money from its outreach and education and diversity programs to implement it.

Planning is under way for the program's second year, when five crews totaling 50 youths will work in the same areas, and at Malden and Scott City. -- Phil Helfrich

NEW TROUT PLAN HAS SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE

On March 1, the Conservation Department will enact a new trout stream management plan that will designate Blue-Ribbon, Red-Ribbon or White-Ribbon areas.

Parts of large, cold rivers with the best trout habitat and smaller streams capable of supporting naturally reproducing rainbow trout populations are designated Blue-Ribbon areas. In these areas, length and creel limits will be restricted to allow the maximum number of brown or rainbow trout to grow to trophy size. The length limit on those waters is 18 inches, and anglers can keep only one fish per day. Parts of the Current, Eleven Point and North Fork rivers; and Crane, Barren Fork, Blue Springs, Little Piney, Mill and Spring creeks are among those that will be designated Blue-Ribbon areas.

Red-Ribbon areas also have high-quality trout habitat. However, some factors, such as limited cover or seasonal temperature increases, limit trout growth or survival. In such areas, the Conservation Department will use slightly less strict harvest regulations to provide catch-and-release fishing with a chance of catching large trout. Anglers will be able to keep up to two trout that measure 15 inches or longer per day. Red-Ribbon areas include the Maramec River and Roubidoux Creek, and parts of the North Fork River.

White-Ribbon waters can support trout populations year-round. These will be stocked mostly with rainbow trout under the new plan. The stocking will include some brown trout and a limited number of large- to trophy-sized trout not needed for brood stock at hatcheries. There will be no length limit on rainbow trout in White-Ribbon streams, and the daily limit will be four trout. This will appeal to anglers who want to take home what they catch. A 15-inch minimum length limit will apply to brown trout in areas where they are stocked.

Beginning March 1, a new statewide daily limit of four trout will take effect. A new statewide minimum length limit of 15 inches on brown trout caught from streams also becomes effective March 1.

For more details, visit online.

Bowhunters to meet in Jefferson City

The United Missouri Bowhunters will hold their annual festival Feb. 4 - 6 at the Jefferson City Ramada Inn.

The event features hunting-related seminars, displays by archery equipment dealers and custom bow makers, exhibits of mounted game animals, archery equipment raffles, a silent auction and a photography contest. Visitors are welcome. For more information, contact Doug Morgan, 5133 Brin Ridge Dr., High Ridge, MO 63049, <averagearcher14@aol.com>;.

RV show at America's Center

"North to Alaska" is the theme for the 28th Annual St. Louis RV Camping and Travel Show Jan. 20 - 23 at the America's Center in St. Louis. The event features exhibits and seminars focusing on traveling to and through Alaska. Documentary films titled "Alaska's Inside Passage" and "Alaska RV Adventure" will be shown daily. Information also will be available about traveling Alaska by rail and cruise ship. As always, the show will include hundreds of recreational vehicles and displays of nearby RV travel destinations. For more information, visit online or call (314) 355-1236.

 

Create a winter haven for wildlife

Lining a lawn with bird feeders is one way to attract birds during the winter. Lining it with native plants and shrubs that produce berries or seeds is another.

Now is the time to evaluate your yard’s value to wildlife in winter. Does it provide high-energy food, reliable water sources and safe shelter? If not, consider adding smooth sumac, burning bush, American bittersweet or other native plants to your landscape.

At least 32 species of birds, including bobwhite quail, eat the fruit of smooth sumac. Cottontail rabbits and white-tailed deer consume the shrub’s leaves and twigs, and small mammals use the plants for cover.

Smooth sumac also is a beautiful ornamental shrub. It produces dense clusters of white flowers from late May to July, bright red clusters of fruit and brilliant autumn foliage.

Wahoo, or burning bush, is another welcome addition to home landscapes. Many species of birds devour its fruit, and it produces colorful berries and scarlet autumn leaves.

If you have room for a sprawling plant, consider American bittersweet. This aggressive vine drips with ornamental clusters of orange fruit that split open to display bright red seeds. The fruit persists into winter, adding color to drab winter days and providing food for wildlife. Cottontail rabbits, fox squirrels and at least 15 species of birds eat bittersweet fruit.

To find more Missouri native shrubs, vines and trees that provide winter food for wildlife, visit the Grow Native! web site. Click on "Native Plant Info," then "Plant Search." -- Barbara Fairchild

AGENT NOTEBOOK

All law enforcement officers, including Conservation Agents, sometimes issue citations to those folks caught breaking the law. Most citations written by Conservation Agents are for fish and game violations, littering, trespass and vandalism.

People convicted of conservation charges are required to pay fines and court costs. Many of the people I talk to believe that the money collected from these fines go to the Conservation Department. Others believe they go to the state general fund.

Neither the Conservation Department nor the State sees a penny of the fines paid. In fact, the fine money collected from conservation cases goes to school systems in the counties where the tickets were written. The court costs go to the court systems.

People also seem to believe that Conservation Agents are required to write a certain number of tickets each month to meet a quota. In fact, agents are not required to write any number of tickets. If a violation warrants a ticket then one is issued. In a perfect world, we'd prefer never to issue a ticket.

When you hear someone complaining about getting a ticket from a Conservation Agent, or maybe if you received a ticket, keep in mind that we only give tickets when there is a clear violation. The only plus-side to the tickets we issue is that the fines paid always go to a good cause. -- R. Shannon Smith