People interested in providing feedback on the future of one of Pike County’s largest natural areas have until the end of the month to do so.
The Missouri Department of Conservation is soliciting comment on a 15-year area management plan for the Ted Shanks Conservation Area, a 6705-acre protected area where the Salt River enters the Mississippi
“The area plans are basically big picture, guiding documents for the management of the areas. They don’t tend to be really specific in nature or detailed,” said Mike Flaspohler, a wildlife management biologist based in MDC’s Hannibal office. “They would be used over time to make request for budget dollars, things like that.”
One of 15 intensively managed wetland areas in the state of Missouri, the area is focused especially on providing a healthy habitat for waterfowl.
It also provides hunting opportunities for waterfowl and deer.
The area was seriously flooded in 1993, capping years of damage to the ecosystem and destroying a bottomwood hardwood forest — a type of forest in a floodplain that is occasionally flooded — that had stood in the area.
“The challenge that we deal with in this area is long-term habitat degradation,” Flaspohler said. “The other side of that is we also deal with more and more invasive species all the time.”
The forest was replaced by reed canary grass, a hardy Eurasian invader.
“It’s one of those species that has really taken over in the area, completely dominates everything else, and doesn’t let anything else grow. So we’ve been fighting that. [Its] the battle between lost natural habitat, which would’ve been the bottomland forests, and the following invasive species encroachment on the area,” Flaspohler said.
The area management plan, which would be in effect through 2034, lays out broad steps that can be taken to restore the ecosystem at the site and control invasive species.
The plan was prepared by a planning team drawn from the different divisions of the MDC. Flaspohler said the process began in 2017.
Now that the plan is public, Flaspohler encouraged people to participate in the project.
“We’re not doing public comment just to tick a box or something. We certainly do want to hear if somebody has a concern…or a sense of how we should do something,” Flaspohler said. “As part of the planning process, we will address those comments.”
People interested in providing comment can do so at the MDC website at mdc.mo.gov.