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Published on: May. 18, 2011

Prescribed Burns

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Glade Coneflowers

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Every weekend for the past six years, excluding four (deer hunting, Thanksgiving, Christmas and taxes), from mid-October to mid-April, Dan Drees has been out restoring his land. Even on the most forbidding day, Dan can be found loading chainsaws onto his ATV and heading out to practice what he calls “chainsaw therapy.”

A Professional and Personal Pursuit

Dan, a fire ecologist with the National Park Service, and his wife, Susan Farrington, a plant community ecologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), own 218 acres of land near the Current River in Shannon County, a portion of which encompasses Little Shawnee Creek, a tributary of the Jacks Fork River. The property is shaped like a mirror-imaged capital letter “L,” with its long side running north, the leg jutting west. After designing and building a house, they began a comprehensive land restoration program in early 2005, a year after they bought the property. In recognition of the end goal for the land, they christened it “Blooming Paradise.”

Dan and Susan met, fittingly, on a glade-woodland restoration project at Meramec State Park in 1998. Susan, now 48, was a Sierra Club volunteer that day. Dan, now 54, was a naturalist at the park, supervising the cutting and burning of woodland-invading eastern red cedars. They married in 2003 and bought their Shannon County property the next year. Dan, who worked for many years for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources as a park naturalist and briefly for MDC as a natural history biologist, joined the National Park Service as a fire ecologist in early 2009.

Purchasing Blooming Paradise fulfilled a lifelong dream for Dan. He focused his whole career to live and work, eventually, in the Current River watershed. Born and raised near St. Louis, his childhood, like that of many Missourians, included visits to the wild Jacks Fork and Current rivers country. He remembers camping at Alley Spring, Round Spring and Circle B. Those trips left an impression. “I always knew I wanted to live and work in Shannon County,” he says. By third grade he knew what he wanted to do and where he wanted to live. Forty years later he made it happen. Susan, raised in upstate New York and California and educated in Pennsylvania, arrived in Missouri as a lead horticulturist for the Missouri Botanical Garden in 1996. In 1998, she met Dan and her budding natural resource interests, supported

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