Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program in Missouri

Introduction and General Description
Where the Rivers Run If you were to travel across Missouri from the northwest to the southeast, the topographic changes would be staggering. From the Glaciated and Osage plains in north and west central Missouri, to the Ozark Highlands and Mississippi Lowlands in southern and southeast Missouri, the Fish and Wildlife Service has been restoring habitats on private lands statewide since 1991 through the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program.

Climate in Missouri is more typical of the southeastern United States, with hot, humid summers and mild winters. Average precipitation ranges from 33 inches in the northwest, to 46 inches in the southeast. Summer high temperatures average 90 degrees. Winter temperatures are generally mild with lows in the upper teens and low 20's. 

One of Missouri’s unique qualities is that it is centrally located in North America, making it a crossroads of many of the major U.S. habitat communities.  Furthermore, three rivers, the Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio are associated with the State and drain the region between the Rocky and Appalachian Mountains. These rivers serve as major dispersal corridors for America’s aquatic life and migratory birds.

River and stream habitat serve as a common thread on the Missouri landscape. The diversity of habitat in Missouri relates to the variety of different plants growing in concert with changes in topography, so with a closer look, such subtle or extreme changes create a patchwork of smaller habitats which are all associated with 54,000,000 miles of streams and rivers in the State.

Terrestrially, there are 89 different natural communities including forests, savannahs, prairies, glades, cliffs, talus slopes, streambeds, wetlands and caves. There are 105 distinct aquatic communities, including types of freshwater springs, cave streams, headwater streams, small and large river communities, oxbows, sloughs, and ponds. This degree of diversity makes Missouri unique in the Midwest.

Many of these habitats in Missouri are still remain virtually undisturbed an near pristine condition, while many others have been degraded, converted to other uses, or overtaken with invasive species. We assist Missouri landowners who voluntarily wish to restore habitats on their property through the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program.

Habitats of Special Concern
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s Partners Program focuses on four major habitat types in Missouri:

  1. wetlands
  2. native prairie
  3. savannas
  4. Ozark streams

Because of their importance in providing quality habitat for Federal trust resources like migratory birds, threatened, endangered, and declining species, amphibians, reptiles, fish and mammals.

The Partners Program has five major focus areas for wetland restoration on private lands: the floodplain of the Missouri River, the floodplain of the Mississippi River, southeast Missouri, and north-central and west-central Missouri. The focus areas are NWR, Mingo NWR, and the Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge.

Missouri serves as a midway point for hundreds of migratory species, including ducks, geese, large wading birds, shorebirds, terns, gulls, songbirds, hawks, and eagles who utilize wetlands as resting and feeding areas so they can continue their migration to and from breeding and wintering grounds. Without adequate wetland habitat, many species would fail to reach their destination, or may have such depleted energy reserves that they cannot invest in reproduction.

The Confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers is a major new focus for the Service and its  partners to conserve, protect and restore wetland habitat to benefit migratory birds and other wetland dependent species. The Service is working in partnership with local and national organizations to restore wetlands and native grasslands on private lands. Other species that benefit from Missouri wetlands include the declining eastern massasauga rattlesnake, endangered Hine’s emerald dragonfly, and threatened western prairie-fringed orchid and decurrent false aster.

Prairie and Savanna
Native prairie and savanna habitats in the central U.S. provide extremely important habitat to a number of songbirds, reptiles, butterflies, and mammals, and Missouri is no exception. A number of species have come to depend on these diverse landscapes to live and reproduce. However, as more prairie habitat declines or becomes marginal, more species experience population declines.  Many songbird species require large expanses of intact grasslands to survive. Prairie birds of concern to the Service include the bobolink, loggerhead shrike, grasshopper sparrow, Henslow’s sparrow, dickcissel, and eastern meadowlark. Our efforts are focused on the north- and west-central parts of Missouri.

Ozark Streams
Ozark streams have an incredibly diverse array of aquatic species. We are focusing on streams which provide habitat for declining species and for those on the Endangered Species List. Nearly one-third of Missouri’s 67 fish species occur in the Ozarks. Twenty of these, like the Niangua darter, are unique to the Ozark region and occur nowhere else in the world. Of those 20, four species are on the Endangered Species List. Missouri stream habitats also support one of the most diverse freshwater mussel populations in the U.S. of which 8 are federally listed as endangered or threatened. We have three major focus areas for streams in the Ozarks:

  1. watersheds that support the threatened Niangua darter
  2. the Meramec River basin which has the largest assemblage of mussel species in Missouri, 43 of which have shown marked declines
  3. caves, sinkholes, and freshwater springs which provide habitat to several rare underground species.

Nearly 87 percent of Missouri’s original 4.8 million acres of wetlands have been lost primarily by urbanization and agriculture. Problems include drainage, conversion, and water quality degradation due to excess nutrients and pesticides. 

Prairie/Oak Savanna
Prairie once dominated the Glaciated and Osage Plains in Missouri, but today, along with savannah roughly 1 percent remains. Largely this loss is due to prairie being converted to cropland and also because many European varieties of grasses were introduced to the landscape, thereby displacing native species. The prairie that does remain is very disjointed and mixed within a patchwork of non-native grasses and row crops.

Ozark Streams
The streams in the Ozarks are threatened by an increase in human encroachment, confined animal feeding operations, excess phosphorus and nitrogen which compromise water quality, timber clearing along stream corridors, and stream modification caused by gravel mining and other activities. Many fish species adapted to Ozark streams cannot tolerate these habitat changes because they prefer clear, cool, fast flowing waters. The more these waters are impaired, the more decline we see in aquatic species.

Conservation Strategies
The objectives for the Partners Program in Missouri are to provide technical and financial assistance to as many volunteer landowners as possible in order to provide habitat for fish, wildlife, and plants. We work closely with our partners in identifying priority areas and our close working relationship with our State conservation agency allows us to reach many Missourians who otherwise might be missed.  Partnerships with other Federal, State, and non-governmental organizations is the foundation for the success of the program in Missouri.

With our partners we have identified high priority areas in the State for wetland, stream, and prairie restoration. We have provided assistance for:

  • wetland restoration or enhancement ($400-$600 per acre)
  • tree removal from prairie landscapes (average $600 per acre)
  • converting fescue to warm season grasses and forbs ($600 to $800 per acre).

In the Ozarks, we primarily work in watersheds where the Niangua darter occurs but have been expanding the program to benefit other imperiled species. The Missouri Department of Conservation, local soil and water conservation districts, local Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Service, and local voluntary landowners have been working to link stream corridors through protection of the riparian habitat and by providing alternative watering sources for livestock. We also provide guidance on rotational grazing practices, and assist with streambank erosion problems (projects average $7,000 per mile of stream).

Finally, we work with local school districts on outdoor classrooms; we believe that working with communities to enhance or restore wetland and prairie habitat is essential. These efforts help to educate children and adults on the importance of these habitats for fish, wildlife and the web of life.

Restoration Projects
Glade Restoration
Glades are habitat on the fringe of prairies and forests and are often overrun by red cedar. Limestone glades are rare and they support a plant that is listed as threatened, the Missouri bladderpod. To restore glade habitat, we remove trees and conduct prescribed burns to provide enough sunlight to allow the plant to grow.

Prairie Enhancement
Prairie and grassland habitat is often fragmented by hedge rows. Some birds need wide open habitat to survive and to avoid predators. We assist with the removal of trees to open up the vista for birds like the greater prairie-chicken and bobolink.

Emergent Wetland Restoration
To provide habitat for dabbling ducks, songbirds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians, we construct small levees, about 3 feet high, and install water level control structures in areas generally too wet to farm.

The Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program in Missouri has been fully operational since 1991. Accomplishments from 1991 to 2005 are:

  • 11,000 acres of wetlands restored
  • 17,000 acres of prairie restored
  • 29 miles of Niangua darter stream habitat improvements
  • 390 acres of glade habitat restored
  • 421 Partners agreements have been signed with landowners
  • Improved 15 acres of habitat on the rare loess hills along the Missouri River, in northwest Missouri

Future Needs

  • There is still an opportunity to restore 60,000 acres of wetlands in identified priority areas.
  • We estimate there are at least 100,000 acres of grasslands in high priority areas that could be restored or enhanced.
  • Many declining aquatic species occur in Ozark streams and there about 27,000,000 miles of streams in this region of the State.  Restoration could by done in many of these streams.
  • At least 500 acres of glade habitat could be restored through tree removal and management practices.

Contact Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program in Missouri

Ms. Kelly Srigley Werner
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
101 Park DeVille Dr.
Suite A
Columbia, Missouri  65203
Phone: 573 234-2132 ext. 112
Fax: 573 234-2181


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