About the Columbia FWCO
Columbia Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO), located in Columbia, Missouri, was established in 1991. The office is conveniently located just a few miles from the Missouri River, home of the federally endangered Pallid Sturgeon, a species that Columbia FWCO and our partners are working diligently to recover. However, Columbia FWCO’s work extends well beyond the muddy banks of the Missouri River and includes a diverse array of fisheries work performed across the Midwest Region.
Pallid Sturgeon Monitoring and Recovery
Since 1997, Columbia FWCO has been part of a basin-wide monitoring effort and is responsible for assessing the lower 250-miles of Missouri River for use by Pallid Sturgeon. This species of sturgeon is a relic from the dinosaur age; however, despite surviving millennia in the Missouri River the population succumbed to overfishing and habitat alteration. Pallid Sturgeon was listed as federally endangered in 1990. Throughout the duration of the long-term monitoring project, Columbia FWCO has led efforts to improve sampling methods and efficiency including developing new trawling techniques uniquely adapted for the challenges of sampling the Missouri River. Recovery efforts also include assisting our partners at Neosho National Fish Hatchery and Blind Pony State Fish Hatchery with propagation of the species. Columbia FWCO participates in broodstock collection, where wild Pallid Sturgeon are captured from the Missouri River and transported to hatcheries for spawning. Through this propagation program, nearly 159,000 young Pallid Sturgeon have been stocked into the lower Missouri River.
Habitat Assessment and Monitoring Project
Columbia FWCO is working with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to evaluate the efficacy of existing shallow water habitats (natural and human made) to support early life history stages of the endangered Pallid Sturgeon in the lower Missouri River (LMOR) as part of the Habitat Assessment and Monitoring Program (HAMP). In addition to sampling for Pallid Sturgeon, crews are gaining a better understanding of how all fish species in the LMOR use of available shallow water habitat throughout the year. Shallow water habitats are hypothesized to be critical to the survival of larval and juvenile native fishes by providing nursery areas for them to escape the fast moving water and to feed and grow. The information collected from this project will facilitate adaptive decision making for future habitat construction action by the USACE.
Aquatic Invasive Species
Columbia FWCO is part of the massive effort underway to prevent invasive carp from spreading into the Great Lakes. The primary focus for the office is to develop new gears to monitor and capture Bighead and Silver carps, as well as other aquatic invasive species. Columbia FWCO continues to develop and improve the electrified and non-electrified butterfly trawl (Paupier) and the Lampara purse seine that target fast swimming adult carp. Our gear development efforts also include nets and techniques for capturing the young-of-year and juvenile carps. Mamou and scalene trawls have shown great success for sampling these elusive early life history stages of Bighead and Silver carps. As part of the invasive carp monitoring in the Illinois River and Chicago Area Waterway System, a project is planned to study the early life history stages and habitat use of these invasive species. Columbia FWCO is also working with state and federal partners to design and implement novel detection gears and sampling methods to monitor the invasive Round Goby and Northern Snakehead, two species that are poised to invade Missouri.
Fish Habitat Program
National efforts continue in an attempt to mitigate impacts from past anthropogenic activities and prevent further degradation of aquatic habitats. The Columbia FWCO administers funds for projects supported through the National Fish Passage Program and the National Fish Habitat Action Partnership. These programs fund projects that remove or replace structures and barriers which impede natural passage of aquatic organisms and assist landowners in adopting best management practices that add value to their property while restoring aquatic habitat. Through these programs, Columbia FWCO works closely with state, county and private partners in Missouri and Iowa providing technical and financial assistance. The focal area for our passage projects has been the historic range of federally threatened Niangua Darter, although projects have also been funded in Iowa, in the range of the federally endangered Topeka Shiner and in Meramec River tributaries. The Meramec River Basin is recognized at the state and national level for its vast diversity of organisms, both terrestrial and aquatic, and unique habitats making it a conservation priority for many organizations and agencies including the Columbia FWCO and its partners. Much of our habitat work has been focused in this basin and being that these resources are privately owned, lends perfectly to the mission of this partnership.
Columbia FWCO has long been committed to servicing the fisheries needs of Federal Lands including the Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Refuges and U.S. Army military bases. We also work with the USACE to assess habitat creation projects on the Missouri River. Perhaps the most rewarding aspects of our work comes through numerous outreach events designed to reach out to the public and children to introduce them to conservation and appreciate the fish we work so hard to protect.