The Nature Conservancy collaborated with the state of Missouri, the American Bird Conservancy and the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation to protect 80 acres containing important floodplain habitat in the watershed of the Current River, one of North America’s most biologically diverse streams. The parcel links together federal and state protected lands and provides breeding habitat for the cerulean warbler, whose population is declining throughout its range.
The Missouri Department of Conservation identified Horse Creek tract as a critical addition to the Angeline Conservation Area management unit. MDC asked the Conservancy to help purchase the privately owned 80-acres in Shannon County.
Horse Creek, a perennial stream, runs across the property and empties into the Jacks Fork River approximately 12 miles downstream from the property. The property and Horse Creek are in the Current River Critical Watershed Buffer Area.
In addition, approximately 37 acres of the tract are in riparian flood plain and have been identified as cerulean warbler breeding habitat. The American Bird Conservancy committed $35,000 to the purchase price of the tract because it is in an area of the Ozarks where there are high densities of cerulean warblers in the floodplain forests of the Jack’s Fork and Current River.
"While the Horse Creek tract was cleared a few decades ago, it is transitioning back into a mature bottomland forest with characteristics that cerulean warblers prefer: well-developed canopy layers and canopy gaps where tall trees, like sycamores or cottonwoods, emerge above the tops of other trees," said Jane Fitzgerald, Central Hardwoods Joint Venture coordinator for American Bird Conservancy.
She also added that by protecting this property, it would prevent the land from being cleared, which increases brown-headed cowbirds, a brood parasite with devastating effects on the cerulean warbler population, which has declined by approximately 70 percent wince the mind 1960s.
The Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation committed $55,500 through the Stream Stewardship Trust Fund. "MCHF, through its Stream Stewardship Trust Fund, was eager to help protect the Horse Creek Tract. This property was important for us because it closed a three-sided in-holding on public land, contained a high-quality aquatic resource that was vulnerable to adverse private development, and occurs in a Conservation Opportunity Area as identified by the Missouri Department of Conservation and its partner," said Rick Thom, executive director of MCHF.
After negotiating successfully with the sellers, the Conservancy plans to sell the property to MDC for actual costs. It is not unusual for MDC and the Conservancy to work together to purchase critical or priority properties. MDC identified the partners and assembled a collaboration to fund the acquisition. The Conservancy was able to quickly buy the land in a timely manner.
The Conservancy in Missouri has designated the Ozarks and the Current River watershed as a focus or high priority area. The Conservancy has established a conservation buyers program in the targeted area in the watershed, acquiring lands when they come on the market and then creating permanent conservation easements on the land and selling them back into private ownership.
As the single largest focus of the Conservancy’s conservation efforts in Missouri, the Ozarks boast a stunning array of both beautiful and imperiled landscapes. The Missouri Ozarks are home to an abundant population of significant plants, animals and natural communities against a backdrop of expansive, magnificent wooded hills that provide for a robust forest products industry. The Current River, one of North America’s most biologically rich rivers, shelters the best known populations of 25 globally significant species. The Conservancy’s role in the Ozarks is many-faceted and far-reaching. Cooperating with a variety of public and private partners, the Conservancy works diligently to restore and preserve the waters and landscapes for future generations, while maintaining the region’s important economic contributions to Missouri.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.