Prairie chicken. Photo by USFWS.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources have awarded the Missouri Prairie Foundation $750,000 to purchase and protect tallgrass prairie in southwestern Missouri.
The funds are the result of a Natural Resources Damage Assessment settlement with ASARCO, a lead mining and smelting company that polluted the environment while it operated in Jasper and Newton counties over the last century. By-products of lead and zinc mining on the landscape have degraded the environment for many years and have contaminated streams with runoff from waste. Funds recovered from Natural Resource Damage Assessment settlements are dedicated to restoring natural resources in contaminated areas as well as other affected areas nearby.
Missouri Prairie Foundation will use the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service funds to purchase remnant prairies from willing sellers and reconnect existing prairies, or establish wildlife habitat easements. The foundation submitted the best proposal in a competitive process, and will use the awarded funds for work in Jasper and Newton counties.
“The Missouri Prairie Foundation is extremely grateful for this funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.” said Jon Wingo, President of the foundation’s board of directors. “The funding will allow us to purchase and protect perhaps several hundred acres of the fewer than 90,000 scattered acres of original tallgrass prairie remaining in the state. Our mission is to protect prairie gems that remain, which are part of Missouri’s rich natural heritage, and to reconstruct land to connect remnants, thereby building larger prairie landscapes. We invite individuals to learn more about our work and how they can contribute to the conservation of our 2,600 acres, and help us protect even more.”
Prior to European settlement in Missouri, there were 15 million acres of prairie in the state.
The areas in which Missouri Prairie Foundation will be working to protect and restore prairie with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife award is a focal area for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is part of the “Our Missouri Waters Initiative” for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. By protecting and restoring upland areas, downstream resources such as the Spring River will benefit.
Missouri Prairie Foundation is an established non-profit land trust that has operated in Missouri for nearly 50 years. This organization not only preserves 2,600 acres of tallgrass prairie for the benefit of wildlife and the public, but also reconstructs former prairie areas that have been converted to agriculture or other development and engages in prairie outreach and education statewide. For more information, call Missouri Prairie Foundation at 888-843-6739, or visit their website at www.moprairie.org.