This past week has been exceptionally rewarding for me because I’ve been able to participate in special events to recognize our conservation partners with well-deserved awards.
The Ozark Trail Association was chosen as the USDA Forest Service’s 2013 Trails Group Volunteer of the Year. Several of us from the Mark Twain National Forest attended an evening celebration at the Ozark Trail Association’s Mega Event at Council Bluff Lake on April 26th. There, our Forest Supervisor, Bill Nightingale, presented them an Honor Award from our Regional Forester in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and then gave them a letter from the Chief of the Forest Service and the National Trails Group Volunteer Award.
The 350-mile Ozark Trail, located in Missouri, is a beautiful recreation resource for hikers, equestrians, and bike riders thanks to the dedicated contributions of the Ozark Trail Association. During the ten years since its inception, the Ozark Trail Association and its volunteers have worked to construct and maintain the trail – their work to date equates to over $2.2 million! Over 150 volunteers spent the April 26-27 weekend at Council Bluff Lake and finished construction of the 1.2 mile Trace Creek section of the Ozark Trail. Thank you to all Ozark Trail Association volunteers!
I was also given the honor of presenting the USDA Forest Service’s Wings Across The Americas Award to the Iron County Road Department. This award recognizes excellence in the conservation of our winged creatures, such as birds, bats, butterflies, and dragonflies. Many of these species migrate between Canada, the United States, Mexico and other Central and South American countries.
The Iron County Road Department partnered with the Mark Twain National Forest on the Barton Fen Restoration Project. Special recognition was given to Rick Turner, Iron County Road Foreman, and to road department employees Calvin Pryor and Tim Mouser. Together, we repaired and improved County Road 79, which was concentrating water, gravel and fine sediment into Barton Fen – home to the federally endangered Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly. As is typical with these conservation partnerships, the fen and the rare dragonfly benefitted from the work, but so did the Iron County residents who travel this area. Paving the road has made it safer and has reduced dust.
The Barton Fen Restoration Project was the first-ever project awarded the national Wings Across The Americas Award in the dragonfly category. Dragonflies are predators and help to keep populations of mosquitos and other aquatic insects in check. Biologists will continue to work at the fen to keep out feral hogs and woody vegetation, both of which reduce the quality of the fen habitat.
Remember, celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Mark Twain National Forest by getting outdoors. The redbuds and dogwoods have hit their peak around Potosi and Fredericktown, but I’m still hearing of good morel hunting opportunities!