|Map of Drury-Mincy Conservation Area (courtesy of Bull Shoals Field Station website)|
|Aerial photo of Drury-Mincy Conservation Area (courtesy of Bull Shoals Field Station website)|
It was not until Henry Rowe Schoolcraft and his team of explorers began their journey of southern Missouri in November of 1818 that the Ozarks, its people, its geology, and its biology were documented. Schoolcraft’s journals provide a detailed narrative of a land that we in the field of conservation can only dream of restoring, but his observations have become a guide for modern day conservationists as they attempt to restore the lands and waters after irresponsible deforestation, excessive timber harvest, reckless mining practices, and the resulting erosion and pollution left countless scars upon the land and water.
In order to understand the model which guides land managers in the Drury-Mincy Conservation Area and in other areas of the Ozarks, it is helpful to quote Schoolcraft. This quote was penned on December 21, 1818.
"The bottom-lands continue to improve both in quality and extent, and growth of cane is more vigorous and green, and affords a nutritious food for our horse. The bluffs on each side of the valley continue, and are covered by the yellow pine."
From January 4, 1819, a description of the grassland east of what is now Springfield, Missouri:
“The prairies, which commence at the distance of a mile west of this river, are the most extensive, rich, and beautiful, of any which I have ever seen west of the Mississippi river. They are covered by a coarse wild grass, which attains so great a height that it completely hides a man on horseback in riding through it. The deer and elk abound in this quarter, and the buffalo is occasionally seen in droves upon the prairies, and in the open highland woods. Along the margin of the river, and to a width of from one to two miles each way, is found a vigorous growth of forest trees, some of which attain an almost incredible size…"
After observing white hunters in the area, he wrote what comes closest to the reason why conservationists cling to a sustainable vision:
“The Indian considers the forest his own, and is careful in using and preserving everything which it affords. He never kills more meat than he has occasion for. The white…destroys all before him, and cannot resist the opportunity of killing game, although he neither wants the meat, nor can carry the skins.”
Early in the 20th century, the only wild White-tailed Deer in the entire state of Missouri were confined to the Drury-Mincy Conservation Area. It is said that today the DNA of every deer in the state can be traced back to the original remaining herd in Drury-Mincy. During a very successful effort to restore White-tailed Deer populations to the entire state, canebrakes were replaced by food plots. This proved to be very beneficial for the game species, but the practice, along with the creation of a series of reservoirs along the White River, resulted in a serious decline in canebrakes and in the number of neotropical bird species nesting in the area. This decline in avian populations eventually resulted in the extirpation of nesting Swainson’s Warblers from the White River watershed in Missouri.
|Map of prescribed burn sites in Drury-Mincy Conservation Area (courtesy of Bull Shoals Field Station website)|
We have come to the realization that improving habitat for one species may very well negatively impact the population of another. It is with this knowledge that today’s land managers strive to improve habitat for many and varied life forms. To date, fire is the most effective tool for increasing biodiversity and restoring the savannah ridges and hillside woodlands, as well as the arid glades, of the area. In the fertile bottomlands, Giant Cane restoration, invasive removal, and the encouragement of native vines and woodland species serve to lure extirpated and endangered species back to the stream banks and riparian zones.
The journals of Schoolcraft and the knowledge uncovered by current researchers bring us full circle to today’s management plan for Bull Shoals Field Station. Many in the conservation field now embrace a vision of the Ozarks ecosystem with characteristics of the pre-European settlement lands, and this vision guides much of the scientific research, land management techniques, and educational outreach of the facility.
|The back entry to Drury House is the focal point of GLADE during meal time! (photo courtesy of Bob Ball)|
|The back entry of the Drury House provides a great place for creative expression during GLADE. |
(photo courtesy of Bob Ball)