Missouri — August 2023
The Missouri Chapter of BHA knocked out a host of public land improvement projects in just one day this month in partnership with Mark Kenyon of MeatEater and Wired to Hunt as part of the Working for Wildlife Tour, an effort to bring attention to the hundreds of volunteer-driven events put on across the country every year by conservation organizations to improve wildlife habitat, restore ecosystems, and clean up public lands and waters.
"Too many of these events slip by under the radar without the attention or participation they deserve. We want to help change that," Kenyon said.
BHA helped kick off the Working for Wildlife Tour in March with a work day at the Martin Burns Wildlife Management Area in Massachusetts.
Missouri leaders and volunteers picked up the torch and rolled up their sleeves at the at B.K. Leach Memorial Conservation Area, less than an hour from Downtown St. Louis, MO. Volunteers met in Elsberry, MO bright and early for a project brief from the Missouri Department of Conservation and some inspiring words from Kenyon about how our public places are not here by accident, but that the generations before us had the foresight to conserve these wild landscapes, and that we were here to do the same for the generations that will follow.
Volunteers were split into groups and headed into the field, each group led by MDC Staff. More than 50 people from across Missouri and from neighboring states — men, women, and children of many backgrounds — showed up to help improve habitat of our public lands.
Woody Plant Removal- Volunteers cut and removed stands of willows from native prairie that had invaded the prairie system and were creating conditions that were detrimental to the native prairie plants and the wildlife that call them home.
Owl Perch Installation- Volunteers dug holes and placed natural posts that would act as perches for short-eared owls that migrate from the arctic to winter in Missouri. In the winter, birding enthusiasts travel from around the world to visit B.K. Leach Conservation Area to see these owls, sometimes matching the number of hunters the wildlife area sees in the fall.
Seed Collection- Volunteers collected seeds from native prairie flowers like Foxglove Beardtoung, Yellow Coneflower, and Illinois Bundleflower that would be used to reseed new areas and expand the native prairie landscape at B.K. Leach. These wet prairie systems are home to vast arrays of plant and wildlife species, including whitetail deer, quail, and non-game species.
Wood Duck House and ADA Blind Build- Volunteers split into 2 groups, one traveling deeper into the Mississippi edge waters to build and mount 7 wood duck houses in trees so that ducks would have a nesting site safe from nest-raiding predators like raccoons and skunks, and so when ducklings leave the nest, they will have a short drop and land in the safety of the water. The second group got busy cutting, constructing, and painting a new ramp at one of the MDC duck blinds, so hunters that use a wheelchair would be able to enjoy the thrill of ducks over decoys on these Mississippi backwaters.
Following the stewardship project, volunteers and members of the community gathered at back at the Elsberry Community Center for our Stewardship Stories event to share in the camaraderie and celebrate a hard day’s work. Doren Miller of the Missouri Trappers Association, B.K. Leach Biologist Nick LeMaster, Regional Supervisor Gary Calvert, MDC deputy Director Jason Sumners, and Mark Kenyon shared stories about stewardship and why the work we do is so important to the region, the habitat, and our heritage of hunting. Everyone walked away with a renewed sense of pride in our public lands and a fire stoked within them that they will carry throughout the fall hunting season.
Photos Courtesy of Caleb Condit