Conservation Federation of Missouri Names MPF Conservation Organization of the Year

Conservation Federation of Missouri Names MPF Conservation Organization of the Year

On March 10, 2017, the Conservation Federation of Missouri honored the Missouri Prairie Foundation (MPF) with the Conservation Organization of the Year Award at its annual Convention held in Jefferson City.

Pictured from left to right are Martin McDonald of Bass Pro Shops, conservation champion and underwriter of the awards evening, MPF board members Jon Wingo and Jan Sassmann, MPF Executive Director Carol Davit, MPF board members Anita Berwanger, David Young, and Bruce Schuette, CFM Executive Director Brandon Butler, and MPF board member Steve Mowry. Photo by Emma Kessinger.

 

Why the work of the Missouri Prairie Foundation is Critical to Conservation:

Once covering at least 15 million acres in Missouri—one-third of the state—prairies are home to a stunning diversity of species. Our remaining prairies abound with life, both above and below ground: up to 800 native plant species, 400 native pollinators (more than any other habitat in Missouri), dozens of vertebrate animals, and thousands of invertebrates, fungi, and other organisms are known from Missouri’s prairies. Prairies are beautiful, fascinating, beneficial to us, essential to the diversity of species dependent on them—and are very rare: along with other temperate grasslands of the world, prairie is the planet’s most imperiled and least conserved major terrestrial ecosystem. Today, fewer than 70,000 scattered acres of original prairie remain in Missouri—irreplaceable genetic reservoirs to conserve for future generations.

Prairie protection efforts in Missouri, therefore, are not only essential to preserving the state’s natural heritage, but are also significant to national and even global conservation work. MPF—50 years old in 2016—is the only organization in Missouri whose land conservation efforts are devoted exclusively to prairies and other native grasslands. MPF also promotes the use of native plants through its Grow Native! program and supports the identification and control of invasive plant species through its Missouri Invasive Plant Task Force (MoIP: www.moinvasives.org).

 

Notable Achievements of the Missouri Prairie Foundation in 2016:

* By the end of 2016, MPF owned 20 tracts of land totaling more than 3,200 acres, most of it original prairie with some reconstructed prairie. On July 23, 2016, MPF dedicated its 20th acquisition, Carver Prairie, and is slated to acquire another tract of original prairie on January 6, 2017. (By early 2017, MPF now owns 21 tracts of land totaling more than 3,300 acres.)

*In August 2016, MPF was awarded its second Natural Resource Damage Assessment award totaling $843,670, to purchase
additional land. With this award and other donations made throughout its three-year 50th Anniversary Campaign, MPF surpassed its $4 million campaign goal by almost (and perhaps by December 31, more than) $1 million. For an organization that only a few years ago had an operating budget of approximately $300,000, this fundraising success is quite an achievement.

*MPF carries out stewardship of land it owns in accordance with an annual prairie management plan, and also administers contracts for invasive species control on several prairies owned by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC). MPF’s Director of Prairie Management Jerod Huebner oversees and conducts much of this work himself: In 2016 Huebner organized 13 prescribed burns totaling 967 acres on MPF prairies and 80 acres on two privately owned prairies for a grand total of 1,047 acres; treated 2,845 acres of invasive sericea lespedeza and other exotics on 17 MPF prairies, as well as 700 acres on seven prairies owned by MDC. Huebner also oversaw removal of trees and other invasive woody growth on 15 acres of MPF’s Carver Prairie. Other invasive tree and brush removal projects include MPF’s Snowball Hill Prairie, where approximately 8 acres were cleared, and MPF’s Stilwell Prairie, where trees were selectively cut and piled over approximately 30 acres.

*MPF is governed by a hands-on volunteer board of directors. Board President Doris Sherrick and Executive Director Carol Davit have made great strides working with the board of directors in 2016 to improve governance strategies, update policies, and other work necessary to prepare for accreditation application with the Land Trust Alliance in 2018. In 2016, board members collectively devoted thousands of volunteer hours to the organization, from fundraising and accounting activities to helping with prescribed burns and conducting bird, butterfly, and plant inventories on MPF prairies.

*MPF increased its staff by 33% in 2016 by hiring Amy Humphrey Hayes, Administrative Operations Coordinator, to streamline many administrative functions of MPF and its Grow Native! program. With only three staff members working from their homes or in the field, MPF stretches every dollar to do the most good for prairie conservation and native plant advocacy and education, while keeping overhead expenses to a minimum.

*MPF has a very active outreach and education program. In addition to its annual Prairie BioBlitz—held at MPF’s Linden’s Prairie in 2016—and other events open to the general public this year, MPF organized additional events to highlight its 50th Anniversary, including a free film screening in St. Louis in June, and events and articles throughout the year to call attention to the Migratory Bird Treaty Centennial.

*MPF signed, along with many partner groups, the Missourians for Monarchs Collaborative Memorandum of Understanding, committing MPF to contribute to statewide monarch and pollinator conservation goals. MPF has been a key partner in this endeavor since March 2015, and MPF’s Executive Director serves on the Missourians for Monarch’s Steering Committee and Habitat Working Group.

*MPF gave away more than 4,000 native milkweed and nectar plants to schools and other groups and individuals to help monarch butterflies—thanks to a Missouri Department of Conservation grant.

*In recognition of the value of prairie research to provide important information as we steward our prairies and to build a reservoir of prairie knowledge, MPF provided funding for two external research projects in 2016: one to collect data on macroinvetebrates in headwater prairie streams, to the University of Missouri-Columbia, and one to researchers at Missouri Western State University to inventory cryptogams (bryophytes and lichens) in northwestern Missouri. While cryptogams are widespread on every continent, a thorough survey of them had previously never been conducted for the northwestern part of the state. MPF also funded a bird survey and a floristic assessment of its Carver Prairie, and conducted a butterfly survey of its Pleasant Run Creek Prairie.

*MPF awarded Prairie Garden grants to Harrisonville Elementary School and Pop Up Prairie in St. Louis.

*As it has since 1979, MPF produced the Missouri Prairie Journal, with three issues of the Missouri Prairie Journal published in 2016 and sent to members, elected officials, schools, teachers, landowners, and conservation leaders.

*MPF board members and staff gave presentations on prairie and native plants to many groups including the 24th North American Prairie Conference in Illinois and the U.S. Green Building Council St. Louis Chapter, and organized native plant sales in Kansas City, at Columbia Bass Pro ShopsÒ, Town and Country Whole FoodsÒ Market, and Runge Conservation Nature Center. MPF also had educational displays at the Missouri Prairie Festival, St. Louis Zoo Pollinator Dinner, Federated Garden Clubs of Missouri State Convention, Conservation Day at the Capitol, Missouri Planning Association conference, and many other locations.

*Organized the MPF Annual Dinner in Columbia, featuring Dr. Jane Fitzgerald with the American Bird Conservancy, presenting Prairies Past, Grasslands Present, and the Birds that Need Them, which was attended by more than 175 people.

*Now 16 years old, MPF’s Grow Native! program has grown from fewer than 80 professional members when MPF assumed the program four years ago from the Missouri Department of Conservation to 133 members for 2017. MPF staff administer the program with many of the activities of Grow Native! guided by MPF’s Grow Native! committee, made up of native plant professionals and educators. MPF organized three Grow Native! workshops in 2016: One in Edwardsville, IL featured Dr. Doug Tallamy, with more than 300 in attendance; one in Arcadia, MO, offered at a reduced registration fee to increase accessibility to more citizens in this economically stressed region of the state; and one at Powell Gardens, with more than 100 registrants. Grow Native! outreach—from staffed booths at tradeshows and festivals, presentations by staff and committee members—was tremendous in 2016, as underscored by this graphic of 2016 outreach to promote natives:

 

Read about all of the CFM Conservation Achievement Awardees—a number of whom are MPF members! Congratulations to all!