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Stream Health Report Card


Steve Eder grew up in southeastern Indiana and began his professional career nearly 33 years ago with the Missouri Department of Conservation. In his leisure time, he enjoys fishing with family and friends and teaching his grandchildren how to enjoy the outdoors.

Recently, I went through a personal health assessment that included a variety of tests. I participated in cardiovascular trials, a height-to-weight evaluation, plus strength, flexibility, balance, vision, hearing, urinary and blood tests. I count on medical professionals to provide recommendations for improving or maintaining my health. The primary responsibility for my health, however, falls on me. Although this year’s tests will tell me how my body is holding up, it is good for my mental health to get a good report card on my physical status.

Speaking of report cards, a number of Missourians would like to track our efforts to manage our aquatic resources. These are my kind of folks. They want us to earnestly pursue the Next Generation of Conservation’s goal of “Protecting Clean and Healthy Waters” (read more about this plan in our September 2006 issue or at www.missouriconservation.org/12843).

They often ask me how our streams are doing in Missouri. This is a difficult question to answer. Some streams have been abused and are obviously not in good condition. We struggle to assemble a set of “stream health tests” that can be applied to all our streams. Devising tests that apply to aquatic communities that live in a trickle of an upland creek as well as those in the Missouri and Mississippi rivers is a tough assignment.

We are making progress, however. Fisheries management biologists and aquatic resource scientists are systematically sampling aquatic communities across the state and looking for signs of health or symptoms that indicate problems.

To help get more people involved, we are working on a stream management handbook, similar to our popular pond management handbook, that should help citizens and landowners recognize if their streams are getting better or worse. Installments of the stream handbook will be posted on the Web as they are completed.

We have identified several critical components for our stream health report card, and we intend to develop a Web site where we can post field-survey results from the Department of Conservation and other agencies.

Habitat improvement techniques also are being developed to help landowners and public land managers improve streams.

Much work remains to be done to protect and improve our streams. Natural resource professionals are ready and able to assist, but ultimately it is the people who use and/or live along Missouri’s streams who must continue to recognize the value and importance of enhancing the health of streams for future generations.

Several years ago, a tourism slogan touted our state’s stream resources with “Missouri—Where the Rivers Run.” Unfortunately, many of our rivers do not run as clean as they should, and too many aquatic communities are not as healthy as they should be. Wouldn’t it be great if in the future we could proudly proclaim, “Missouri—Where All the Rivers Run Clean and the Fish are Healthy!”

Steve Eder, fisheries division chief

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