Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
Big Muddy Refuge Provides Successful Restoration Partnership
Midwest Region, October 17, 2008
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On October 16th and 17th the Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge hosted a weekend of environmental education and floodplain restoration, in partnership with Living Lands and Waters, 3M Corporation, and Missouri River Relief.


Initial planning for the event began in May. During a conference call in early June, the Overton Bottoms North unit was chosen as the preferred location for the event. The October dates were set, and a date for a site visit was scheduled for later in the month. June flooding on the Missouri River caused the site visit to be rescheduled for the end of July. On July 30th Barbara Moran (Wildlife Refuge Specialist) and Wedge Watkins (Biologist) met with Tammy Baker from Living Lands and Waters and Bill Moore from 3M Corporation, at the J.C. Bryant Cabin, to plan the event and visit the planting site. During the ½ mile walk to the proposed planting site, the group encountered rising floodwaters. When the water reached knee deep, the walk was aborted, along with our plan for using this particular location. We moved on to plan B. The Missouri River wasn’t done yet. It flooded again in August and again in September.


With our new planting site selected and perfectly prepared by the summer floods, the plants and equipment on order, volunteers signed-up, school permission slips signed, school bus routes altered and caterers contracted, we were all hoping for no more flooding and good weather. As it turned out, we were blessed with both.


On Friday, the environmental education day began when Jen Wellman, a teacher from Eldon High School, arrived with about twenty students. Soon, they were joined by eight teachers from various locations throughout Missouri. Tim Haller (Park Ranger) welcomed everyone to the refuge. Then it was time for Chad Pregracke and his crew from Living Lands and Waters, to do some stand up comedy and impromptu skits, while delivering the message that environmental stewardship is everyone’s responsibility. The high school students were fully engaged at this point. Wedge Watkins (Biologist) spoke briefly about the Fish and Wildlife Service mission and the role of the Big Muddy NFWR. This speech inspired the Living Lands and Waters staff to give Wedge a group hug!


Next, it was time to pass out the gloves and shovels and make a short hike to plant 60 two year old Root Production Method (RPM) trees. The trees had been staged at the planting site the previous evening. Wedge explained to the group why we were planting these particular tree species and demonstrated the proper planting technique. Everyone dug in (literally) with great enthusiasm. Soon the work was over and the group hiked back to the parking lot, boarded the bus, and moved to the Taylor’s Landing boat launch. Living Lands and Waters and Missouri River Relief provided boats and operators to take the group up the Missouri River to a nearby sandbar.


On the boat ride Brian Hopkins from Missouri Department of Natural Resources provided the group with a sense of history and natural history for the Missouri River and the surrounding bluffs. Missouri River Relief set tables (complete with tablecloths) and chairs up and provided lunch for everyone.


While the group was finishing their lunch, Chris McClelland and a crew from the Columbia Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office stopped by with an electro-fishing boat. After a few passes electrofishing where the students could view the operation from the safety of the sandbar, the crew came ashore to show the group some of the diversity of fish species present within this reach of the river. After a quick boat ride back to Taylor’s Landing, it was time for the students to board the bus and get back to school. Chad Pregracke provided each of the participants with a signed copy of his recently published book “From the Bottom Up: One Man’s Crusade to Clean America’s Rivers”. It was a fitting end to a great day of learning.


Saturday began crisp and clear at the Overton Bottoms North main parking lot. In addition to the folks from Living Lands and Waters and Missouri River Relief, Tim and Wedge were joined by Bill Moore from 3M Corporation, and about 50 volunteers. The routine was similar to the previous day. Chad and his crew provided some new jokes and skits and Wedge included some new information about prairie cordgrass (Spartina pectinata) and floodplain hydrology. After the group picked up their gloves and shovels, they marched to the tree planting site and planted 200 RPM trees. Next it was a slightly longer hike to the three sites selected for planting prairie cordgrass. Eight hundred pots containing prairie cordgrass had been staged and were ready for transplanting. Volunteers of all ages pitched in to do a great job. Tim Haller was kept busy delivering drinking water, extra plants, and gathering up all the empty pots. The plants were all in the ground by 12:30 p.m.. 3M Corporation provided a terrific catered Barbeque lunch and Missouri River Relief sent everyone home with T-shirt. We all left with a full belly, some sore muscles and the satisfaction that comes from leaving a place just a little better than you found it.

Contact Info: Tim Haller, 573-441-2799, tim_haller@fws.gov
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