Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
Service Offices Assist the Missouri Department of Conservation in Implementing the Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy
Midwest Region, February 26, 2007
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The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) developed the Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy (CWS) as an approach to conservation planning that uses ecologically-based assessments and existing plans to integrate conservation action for all wildlife. 

The framework of the plan is action oriented for cooperative conservation efforts and identifies places that other state agencies, federal agencies, conservation organizations, and private citizens can coordinate work for species of concern and their habitats. 

While adaptive in nature, the plan currently recognizes 33 profiled Conservation Opportunity Areas (COAs) that are priorities based on biological diversity, current stressors, and interest from cooperating partners among other key elements. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) field stations in Missouri are committed to collaborating with the MDC and its conservation partners toward mutual and common goals and priorities for these first 33 profiled COAs.

Collaborative conservation is the foundation of our agencies’ long history of working together for fish, wildlife, and their habitats in Missouri.  Kelly Srigley Werner, FWS State Private Lands Coordinator, met with MDC Staff to discuss approaches to the strategy to meet objectives and to address expectations. 

With that information, the FWS Project Leaders from all field offices in Missouri met in February, 2007, to discuss opportunities, levels of cooperation, and specific COA involvement to help meet the implementation objectives of the strategy. 

Programs represented at this meeting included Ecological Services, Fisheries, Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, and Refuges.  Kelly Srigley Werner then presented the results of those two meetings to the State Directorate’s Comprehensive Wildlife Strategy’s Steering Committee on February 26, 2007.

The following approaches and current and future actions have been identified as a first step towards helping the MDC implement Missouri’s CWS:

1.  The MDC would like a core group of FWS station leaders to convene (Spring 2007) with the Comprehensive Wildlife Strategy staff to further refine Service station involvement in the CWS and the profiled COAs.  Each field station is at various levels of profiled COA involvement as explained below:

  • Refuge Field Stations have agreed to work and are working locally in COAs close to their landbase including Loess Hills, Mingo Basin, Missouri/Mississippi Confluence, Iiaton/Weston, Wakenda and Manitou Bluffs.  For the initial effort to convene partners in the development of COAs, both Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge and Mingo National Wildlife Refuge took a lead role in the development of the Manitou Bluffs and Mingo COAs and each refuge served in the development of at least one COA profile.  Each accomplishment related to COAs near or on a refuge where FWS efforts contribute to the restoration/enhancement of the COA will be reported through the ARS.
  • Ecological Services is integrating participation in key COAs into its new office conservation strategy.  As a first step the office will focus on COAs in important areas for the recovery and conservation of federally-listed and candidate species, specifically for Tumbling Creek Cave, the Niangua Basin, Iatan/Weston Missouri Corridor, Manitou Bluffs and the Middle Meramec COAs.  Additionally, the office will concentrate on COAs that are located in areas of the state where Natural Resource Damage Assessment Restoration (NRDA) funds need to be expended potentially starting with LaBarque Creek.  Starting in 2007, the field office expects an increase in the NRDA restoration funds from Tri-State Lead Mining District in Southwest Missouri.  The field office anticipates the need to build strong partnerhips (focusing on financial support for habitat restoration) with the COA’s in this area of the State.  The newly formed South East Missouri Lead Mining District NRDA will also provide future opportunites to provide financial support for habitat restoration and build partnerships with additional COA’s.  The field office will provide technical assistance to COA’s pertaining to fish and wildlife mitigation opportunities derived from development actions reviewed by the field office. Each accomplishment related to a COA where FWS efforts contribute to the recovery and conservation of listed species or restoration of habitats for listed species will be reported through the ARS.
  • Fisheries Field Stations have agreed to work in the Meramec COA for aquatic resource restoration specifically for mussels and smallmouth bass.  The participation of the Neosho National Fish Hatchery (NFH) in the ongoing multi-party Missouri mussel conservation parthership (by  providing fish hosts for mussel propagation) can contribute to mussel conservation and recovery in this COA.  Education and Outreach efforts for local communities and stakeholders in the Meramec will also be a contributory focus.  The Fisheries Resources Office has also been involved in Niangua Basin COAs to improve fish passage.  This partnership will continue with other county road districts for the expansion of habitat for the federally-listed Niangua darter.  Finally, in support of the restoration actions for the Mingo Basin, Neosho NFH will assist with the reintroduction of Alligator gar on Mingo National Wildlife Refuge.  Each accomplishment related to a COA where FWS efforts contribute to the enhancement/restoration of aquatic habitats will be reported through the ARS.
  • Missouri Private Lands Office has agreed to work locally on COAs that address federal trust resources in the state.  The Midwest Region’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program has already incorporated COA priority areas in its geographical focus areas for Missouri.  The office considers the Confluence COA its highest priority due to existing partnerships and the significance of this area for all-bird conservation and served in a leadership role to develop the COA profile.  Further, each Greater Prairie Chicken COA (6) is within the office’s grassland focus areas as is the Loess Hills COA and there are active partnerships implementing prairie and oak savanna restoration/enhancement.  Work will continue on aquatic COAs associated with federal trust resources (e.g., Tumbling Creek Cave, Niangua Darter Basins) as well as high priority wetland area COAs in north central and southern Missouri (e.g., Lower Grand River and Mingo Basin).  This overlap will target areas on private lands which can contribute to meeting the planned conservation goals and objectives of the CWS strategy.  The office has a strong background in working in partnership with numerous entities statewide to restore habitat on private lands, leverage funds, pool technical expertise, and generate additional partners.  The Office will continue to integrate the CWS strategy in partnership conversations with these entities to bring awareness and to generate new ideas and approaches to each COA germane to the Service’s mission.  Each accomplishment related to a COA where FWS efforts contribute to the enhancement/restoration of private lands for trust resources will be reported through the ARS. 

2.  The MDC has requested that National Wildlife Refuges in the process of developing their Comprehensive Conservation Plans (CCPs) consider incorporating COA strategies into their plans if those COAs are close to the refuge and of mutual interest to address a common goal.  For those refuges whose plans are completed, that refuge managers informally integrate those COA strategies in their CCP implementation.  Refuges in Missouri who have completed the CCP process are limited in their capacities to roll the COA strategies into their plans but as those strategies identified in appropriate COAs align with the CCP, consideration of the strategies can be integrated.   Those refuges involved in the development of their CCPs can incorporate appropriate COA strategies which align with common goals into their process.

3.  Missouri’s CWS is supported by numerous references and assessments supporting the premise that invasive/exotic species pose a substantial threat to natural communities in Missouri.  Many profiled COAs identify the negative impacts non-native invasive species are having on Missouri’s terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.  Likewise, non-native invasive species are also a threat to our National Wildlife Refuge System, our large rivers and are often addressed in the implementation of the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program on private lands.  Resources and approaches are needed to address these invasive species problems affecting both agencies whereby sharing information, techniques and approaches for control, implementing mapping procedures to inventory the extent of invasive species in COAs, and working with partners can help reduce this threat.  Further partnership development to address this issue will be explored further between the agencies.

4.  Both the Service and the MDC recognize that with the 33 profiled COAs, there must be leadership.  Any partner/stakeholder entity can be a leader but without the synergy to help get groups motivated, success likely will be ad hoc.  One solution is to hold a COA leadership workshop that will enable those who wish to take a leadership role in a COA to learn aspects of partnering and team building and using GIS for conservation planning.  The Service is being asked to take part in these workshops.  The Service is not being looked upon to serve as the leader of any particular COA but rather to provide a strong supporting role in a COA.  As the development of these workshops progresses, the Service and MDC will work together to determine specific rolls/actions/tasks for the workshops.

5.  Both agencies recognize that addressing all 33 profiled COAs with limited human and financial resources require extremely strong partnerships for the implementation phase of the CWS.  At the very least the Service can work together on common COA strategies by sharing biological/GIS information, providing technical expertise, keeping COA stakeholder teams informed about funding opportunities, engaging new partners into COA implementation, and raising the awareness of the CWS with other federal agencies in Missouri.  Sharing personnel to implement habitat restoration efforts or to collect biological data could occur where feasible and where such efforts coincide with a Service need for achieving common goals (e.g., prescribed fire, wetland surveying, fish sampling, bird surveying, restoration planning). 

6.  An important aspect of the CWS strategy is to insure biological monitoring and being adaptive in managing fish and wildlife resources.  The financial aspects of monitoring can be staggering when implemented on a statewide scale and even for 33 profiled COAs.  A new website has been created which has been developed to share monitoring protocols and find out where monitoring activities are occurring see:  http://nrmp.nbii.gov/portal/server.pt.  This issue will be explored further as implementation proceeds.

The Service and MDC have a long history of working cooperatively together for fish and wildlife conservation in Missouri.  Existing partnerships are perfect venues to further the implementation of the CWS by insuring Service personnel are familiar with the goals and desired outcomes.  Some efforts clearly cross state boundaries making it possible to collaborate further on a much larger landscape scale important to numerous fish and wildlife resources.  Examples of existing partnerships and initiatives are listed below.

  • The Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge is a voting member of Missouri’s Natural Areas Committee and has helped preserve the best natural community representation in the state. 
  • The Missouri Private Lands Office serves on the Steering Committee of the Missouri Bird Conservation Initiative (MoBCI), a consortium of organizations representing bird interests statewide.  There are 42 different organizations (including 7 Service Offices) which are members of MoBCI and they work together for the interest of birds on many different levels but most importantly for on-the-ground restoration work in key habitats for all-bird conservation.  Since 2003 MoBCI and its partners have implemented nearly one million dollars worth of bird habitat projects in the state ranging from prairie restoration in the southwest and northeast to wetland habitat restoration along the Missouri River floodplain, to controlling invasive exotic species in Kansas City. 
  • Other partnerships include the Upper Mississippi/Great Lakes Joint Venture and the Missouri River Natural Resources Committee both of which can help with CWS implementation related to the two largest river systems in the country.

The efforts described here are the first steps in helping the MDC implement the CWS in Missouri.  Continued dialogue will only strengthen our approach to cooperative conservation for all wildlife in Missouri.

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