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Partners for Fish and Wildlife andNational Wild Turkey FederationHelp Savanna in Missouri
Midwest Region, February 12, 2014
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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Missouri Private Lands Office Staff: Chris Woodson, Dan Crigler and Kelly Srigley Werner accepting the “Save the Habitat Save the Hunt Award” with John Burk, Regional Biologist of the National Wild Turkey Federation.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Missouri Private Lands Office Staff: Chris Woodson, Dan Crigler and Kelly Srigley Werner accepting the “Save the Habitat Save the Hunt Award” with John Burk, Regional Biologist of the National Wild Turkey Federation. - Photo Credit: Les Werner
Restored Savanna habitat in northeast Missouri on private lands as part of the Missouri Oak Savanna Open Woodlands Initiative
Restored Savanna habitat in northeast Missouri on private lands as part of the Missouri Oak Savanna Open Woodlands Initiative - Photo Credit: Frank Oberle

What do you get when you cross an Indiana bat, a Red-headed Woodpecker and an Eastern Wild Turkey? An Indiana-redwood-turkey? Nice try, but what you really get is a very successful partnership to help bring people and the outdoors together.

Since 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Missouri Private Lands Office, through the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program and the National Wild Turkey Federation, have been partnering to enhance and restore native oak savanna and open woodlands on private lands in northeast Missouri. Why?

Because oak savanna in the Midwest has been reduced to just 0.02% of its original extent, bird species dependent on this habitat have and continue to decline. For example, turkey populations have declined 40% here while the area historically supported one of the highest known turkey population densities. Missouri ranks in the top 10 for both resident and non-resident hunters contributing more than one billion in business related activities (http://huntingworksformo.com/economic-data/). Committed voluntary landowners and conservation partners recognize this area in their strategic/management plans and Missouri’s Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy (State Action Plan).

Of those plans, the National Wild Turkey Federation focuses on increasing forest management, prescribed burning, and native warm season grass establishment to improve life needs of turkeys. The Missouri Private Lands Office Northern Till Plains Prairie/Savanna Focus Area, concentrates on activities to improve habitat for the trust species listed above and also field sparrow, Eastern kingbird and Bell’s vireo, all migratory birds of conservation concern using similar restoration techniques.

Our challenge was knowing the majority of the landscape in this region of the state was privately owned, so we decided to gather like-minded federal, state and local non-governmental partners and landowners to tackle some conservation objectives together and hence, the Missouri Oak Savanna and Open Woodlands Initiative was born. In the discussions, we thought about species important to the area, threats, identified a focused landscape area to work in, targeted clientele, identified funding opportunities, and explored cooperative approaches to conservation. Our desire to achieve landscape level conservation efforts between Iowa and Missouri centered on linking protected conservation lands to private lands within a focus area of about 800,000 acres.

Since then, staff from the Missouri Private Lands Office has been delivering Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program restoration dollars in conjunction with National Wild Turkey Federation Superfunds and a myriad of additional collaborating partner conservation program dollars to help improve savanna and open woodland habitats on private lands in Missouri.

Savannas have both an over-story and a diverse under-story, but much of the historic land cover has been overtaken by invasive non-native species in the understory and has developed into dense forests due to a lack of management and fire in the over-story.

Increasing both vegetative and structural diversity translates to more insects (including pollinators) important for brood rearing of turkeys and migratory songbirds, provides better nesting and escape cover; and reduces fragmentation. In the current landscape, work to reduce basal area and select for tree species important to Indiana bat helps provide potential habitat for this species.

Missouri found ways to link up conservation programs to landowners based on their objectives such as whether they had working farm lands or recreational lands. Our combined efforts allowed maximum flexibility in putting conservation dollars to work for landowners and wildlife. In addition to Partners for Fish and Wildlife and National Wild Turkey Federation funds, Missouri Department of Conservation Landowner Assistance Program Dollars and USDA conservation program dollars amde this possible.

Our cooperative efforts are directly addressing the objectives of federation's new national “Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt.” campaign which has set goals to conserve four million acres of habitat, recruit 1.5 million new hunters and establish 500,000 additional acres for hunting access nationally. To achieve the four million acres, each state involved can have 3-4 focal landscapes to achieve the goals and this savanna open woodlands initiative in Missouri is one of them.

Since our involvement, we have been part of the effort to bring eighty thousand dollars to the Initiative, including the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, and collectively we have helped 46 landowners conduct just over 1,000 acres of habitat enhancement work to benefit wildlife and people. Participating landowners also contribute their own funds to their projects because hunting traditions and the value of the outdoors is very important to them.

It is due to this collaborative conservation partnership that the Missouri Private Lands Office was recognized as an exemplary partner and was the first Missouri recipient of the federation “Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt” Award during the National Wild Turkey Federation Show Me Awards Banquet held in January.

Other focal areas around the state are beginning to evolve and Missouri Private Lands Office  staff are engaging with the federation in these areas, as well due to our common interests in wildlife and people. It is important to realize that none of this work can be achieved without the dedication and efforts of voluntary landowners who recognize that, “When land does well for its owner, and the owner does well by his land; when both end up better by reason of their partnership, we have conservation.” – Aldo Leopold, The Farmer as a Conservationist.


See Page 12: Northern Missouri's Grand Savanna and Woodland Plan in the Missouri Prairie Journal (published by the Missouri Prairie Foundation)
http://www.moprairie.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/FallWinter2013Volume24Number3-4.pdf
Contact Info: Kelly SrigleyWerner, 573-234-2132 x112, kelly_srigleywerner@fws.gov



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