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Big Muddy receives Big Gift
Midwest Region, November 12, 2003
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The Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge recently received a gift that promises to keep on giving for centuries to come. The gift was 100 6-8 foot tall pin oak saplings donated from Living Lands and Waters, a national organization dedicated to the protection of the nation's waterways, specifically the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. The gift was strengthened by the planting of the trees by Hickman High applied science class.

The gift was organized by Brian Hopkins, Environmental Education Specialist with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. The planting was performed on a mild but blustery fall day November 12, 2003, at the Overton Bottoms unit of the refuge near Columbia, Missouri. The trees and tools were delivered by a crew from Living Lands and Waters which included their director Chad Pregracke.

At only 28, Pregracke has been working at cleaning up rivers since he was 17. He has attained national and international fame for his tireless work at river clean-ups across the country. His charisma and enthusiasm inspired the students. ?If you see something you don?t like, start now to begin changing it.? Pregracke addressed the students on a tour of the refuge and a look at the mighty Missouri river before the tree planting began.

The applied science class is a hands on learning experience class taught by Dan Miller and Karen Hibdon. They strive to give their students an opportunity to experience what they are learning in class. ?These students respond better to science when they get to apply it with their hands,? Hibdon commented.

Students not only planted the trees but protected the trees with a ground mulch fabric and a browse barrier tube. The ground fabric helps eliminate competing plants from growing in around the tree and the browse tube keeps rabbits from girdling the tree during the winter. The entire planting process was explained to the students by Lisa Hoffmann, a forester and coordinator with Living Lands and Water.

Student and first time refuge visitor Michael Kasten was happy to get his hands dirty. ?I like seeing things grow,? said Kasten, ?I would like to come back in a few years and see how they (the trees) are doing.?

Some of the students personalized the trees they planted by signing and dating the browse tube with a felt tip marker. Tim Haller, park ranger for the refuge, gave the students and introduction to the refuge system, how the trees will enhance the future wildlife habitat and thanked them for the work they were doing. A sign is also in the works at the sign shop to credit Hickman High school for the planting.

These trees will be added to an ongoing study that monitors tree growth and survival of various oaks, pecans and other hardwoods recently planted. These trees once thrived in the floodplain but are now almost nonexistent. The study is directed by the Department of Agriculture on various public lands along the Missouri River floodplain.

Contact Info: Larry Dean, 612-713-5312, Larry_Dean@fws.gov



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