Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

From '93 Ruin, Tomorrow's Refuge 1st Purchase Set for Wildlife Areas along the Missouri

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

From '93 Ruin, Tomorrow's Refuge 1st Purchase Set for Wildlife Areas along the Missouri

Article excerpt

The first piece is about to fall into place in a grand plan to turn the flood-ravaged bottomlands along the Missouri River from St. Louis to Kansas City into a refuge that will benefit both wildlife and people.

State and federal conservationists say the Flood of 1993 provided a rare chance to buy thousands of acres of farmland gouged by floodwater and covered with sand and turn them back into flood plain.

The plan will allow the river to expand in times of high water, reducing human losses and providing wildlife habitat and recreation areas.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has $3 million with which to begin buying land for what it hopes will eventually be a 60,000-acre floodway, dubbed the Big Muddy Fish and Wildlife Refuge.

The first purchase, in what may be a 20-year project costing $51 million, will be the acquisition of 4,500 acres near Arrow Rock, northwest of Boonville. The area is known as Jameson Islands and Lisbon Bottoms.

Bill Hutchinson of the Fish and Wildlife office in Minneapolis said Tuesday that the new refuge would be similar to the 67,000-acre Mark Twain National Refuge on the upper Mississippi along parts of Missouri, Iowa and Illinois.

"But the Big Muddy won't all be connected," he said. "It will be patches of land that we will acquire on the Missouri. Because we're buying only from willing sellers, we may have to jump over some parcels."

Land in the refuge will be managed for conservation purposes; some areas could be farmed with some crops left standing for wildlife.

J.C. Bryant, who will manage the refuge, said the project would return wildlife habitat lost when the river was channeled for barge traffic and the levees were built for agriculture.

"We're trying to connect the river back with the flood plain," said Bryant. "We're going to get the land and then let nature's forces do their work."

The river's currents will be allowed to restore chutes, sloughs and sand bars, he said. …

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