The Nature Conservancy in Missouri announced last week it purchased 175 acres near Hartshorn, including nearly 1.5 miles of land along the Current River – the largest stretch of private frontage remaining in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways.
The organization has protected and restored freshwater systems throughout the Ozarks, with particular focus on the Current River, since an initial acquisition of 83,000 acres in 1993.
“The Current River is the most biologically significant river in the Midwest and provides habitat for animals found nowhere else on Earth. A key priority for The Nature Conservancy is sustaining the river system and its associated watershed, protecting critical habitats and species as well as the vibrant economic resources they provide,” said Doug Ladd, the organization’s director of conservation science.
The landmark conservation purchase will ensure that this portion of the river is properly managed, providing benefits for both the natural environment and for the local economy.
The property was about to be the subject to a foreclosure, and a deal was struck for it, according to the organization.
“We are delighted that The Nature Conservancy has purchased this property along the Current River. This progress is encouraging, and Missouri will benefit from this added protection for a national river resource,” stated John Karel, president of the L-A-D Foundation.
Had the property been sold to a private landowner, it would be susceptible to unsustainable development and clear-cutting of its forests. These types of inappropriate land use flood the river with sediment and chemicals, degrading water quality and compromising the health of aquatic life. The area’s economy is also affected, as these practices destroy amenities that are vital to the tourism and forest products industry.
“We are working with a broad array of partners to ensure river conservation and long-term forest health and productivity in the watershed. The group’s acquisition of the tract ensures that more than a mile of critical river frontage will be permanently protected, while also conserving a tract of working forest and associated small springs and stream drainages,” said Ladd.
The organization contacted the property owner after learning the parcel would be going up for auction in the coming weeks due to an overdue debt. Such a short time frame would typically prevent government agencies or nonprofit organizations from completing a land purchase. It was able to move quickly and rely upon experienced staff members to reach an agreement with the landowner and purchase the property before the auction.
“The Nature Conservancy has been an extremely effective leader in several efforts to ensure that the irreplaceable natural features and cultural heritage of the Current River watershed are passed on unimpaired to future generations. Their nimble organization is often the best at moving quickly to capitalize on critically important but fleeting conservation opportunities,” said Reed Detring, superintendent of Ozark National Scenic Riverways.
The organization implements freshwater initiatives around the world to protect drinking water sources, control the spread of invasive species, reduce runoff and pollution, improve water productivity and management, protect key watersheds, reconnect floodplains to rivers and reduce the ecological impact of dams. This work improves the human condition and sustains healthy ecosystems.
“This acquisition is a great example of how The Nature Conservancy in a state like Missouri focuses on locally important projects that benefit the Current River and the people who rely on the river for their livelihoods and recreation,” said Todd Sampsell, Missouri state director. “But projects like this have a far greater reach, as the Current River contributes healthy water quality to the Mississippi River and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico. Efforts such as this are played out in freshwater systems around the world by hundreds of Conservancy scientists and our partners for the benefit of aquatic species and people.”
The purchase was made possible through the organization’s Howard and Joyce Wood Conservation Buyer Fund, which promotes watershed protection through proper forest management. With support from donors and partners, the group has protected more than 91,000 acres in the Missouri Ozarks.
The Ozarks region provides critical breeding habitat for migratory birds and shelters 407 globally significant species, including the endangered Ozark hellbender salamander, a150-million-year-old species. The region is also home to rare orchids, amphibians, dragonflies, crayfish, mussels,and fish.
The group manages several preserves in the Ozarks; most are open to the public for hiking, bird-watching and other low-impact recreational activities. For more information, visit www.nature.org/missouri and click on “Places We Protect.”
The Current River is the most biologically significant river inthe Midwest and provides habitat for animals found nowhere else onEarth.