El Dorado Springs, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) will purchase additional land tracts for the Linscomb Wildlife Area with the help of conservation partners and donors. This addition will provide new opportunities to enhance native grassland ecology and will provide new opportunities for hunting, hiking, and birding in southern St. Clair County.
MDC will add 510 acres in two separate tracts to be purchased from Quail Forever and Pheasants Forever. The Missouri Conservation Commission approved the purchase on July 9. The tracts border the southeast corner of the Linscomb area. They will provide new public access to the south portion of the area. The acquisitions will help restore a piece of western Missouri’s prairie heritage.
Tallgrass prairie once dominated the landscape near Linscomb. Slopes sometimes transitioned into open woodlands with trees or bottomland forest. The Linscomb area’s north boundary is the Osage River. But the uplands were dominated by open prairie.
The new tracts appear to have some sandstone glades with few trees, said Stasia Whitaker, MDC wildlife management biologist. They match well with adjoining acres where MDC has successfully restored native wildflower and grass species. This addition will dovetail into prairie restoration efforts in the Upper Osage Grasslands, an MDC priority geography. Conservation partners including private landowners are incorporating native species into practices that benefit native plant and wildlife species.
“Vegetation on the new tracts indicate native species still grow there,” Whitaker said. “They could be significantly restored following a management plan that includes prescribed fire, invasive species management, conservation grazing, and woody vegetation control.”
Less than one-tenth of one percent of Missouri’s once-vast tallgrass prairie remains. Similar changes in land use nationwide have made grassland birds among the nation’s most threatened and imperiled species. Prairies are havens for ground feeding and nesting birds from bobwhite quail to Henslow’s sparrows.
“These new tracts will boost efforts to preserve and enhance native grassland ecology in the Upper Osage Grasslands,” said MDC Director Sara Parker Pauley. “This also gives people more opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. We are very grateful to our conservation partners for making this possible, and we’re especially thankful for the generous donations the Berrier family made through the years on behalf of prairie preservation.”
Purchase of the new tracts were made possible in large part with donations from the late Harry and Lina Berrier to MDC. The Berriers, of Columbia, for many years donated portions of proceeds from their Show-Me Bar-B-Q sauce business towards prairie preservation and native grassland management.
The purchase was also aided by MDC’s conservation partners.
“Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever are excited to have had the opportunity to play a part in permanently protecting this vital piece of tallgrass prairie,” said Chris McLeland, director of field operations for the organization’s south region. “As a conservation partner and a habitat organization, we do all we can to assist in creating and protecting rare and declining habitats. This project is a first of its kind for us in Missouri, and we are beyond excited to see it added to Linscomb Wildlife Area and under MDC stewardship.”
Restoring functioning native grassland ecology will require public and private partnerships in the years ahead.
“The Missouri Prairie Foundation (MPF) congratulates the Conservation Commission and MDC on this purchase of native grassland,” said Carol Davit, MPF executive director. “MPF was pleased to contribute the cost of a market analysis for this property, which assisted Quail Forever in acquiring it. Expanding native grassland habitat is extremely important for grassland-obligate birds like Henslow’s sparrows and meadowlarks, and is important in safeguarding our state’s natural heritage, which belongs to all Missourians.”