I Am Conservation

James Chrisco and his wife, Barbara, stand on a part of their farm near Salem dubbed the Kay Branch fens by the Missouri Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly Recovery Team. This parcel of land, which is a complex of Ozark fens that are located in the valley of Kay Branch that flows through the Chriscos’ farm, is one of the most important habitats for the Hine’s emerald dragonfly in the state, according to Bob Gillespie, former natural history biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation and Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly Recovery Team leader. The Hine’s emerald dragonfly is a federally endangered species. “We conducted a mark-recapture study where we marked every Hine’s emerald dragonfly that we could capture and release at one of his fen sites,” said Gillespie. “We captured over 300 individuals, which is simply jaw-dropping for Missouri.” The typical number could be counted on one hand — for the whole survey season. The secret to the success of Chrisco’s land is his grazing practices with his herd of goats. The goats keep the fens from becoming overgrown, and they don’t like to get their feet wet, so they avoid the wetlands. “The dragonfly has open meadows to forage in and perfect wetland habitats for reproduction,” said Gillespie. The Chriscos befriended the recovery team and allowed them to monitor the fens at their discretion. James Chrisco said the land has been in his family for generations. “It has been a joy having people around,” said Chrisco. “It got me to noticing things that I took for granted for many years. I was really impressed by how many dragonflies they found. It was overwhelming. It just makes you happy to see something like that.... I figure they were put here for a reason, and I want them to stay.”

—photograph by Noppadol Paothong