On February 1-3, the Federation and Department of Conservation co-hosted the Missouri Wetland Summit at the Lodge of Four Seasons, Lake Ozark.
The long overdue event brought together over 330 people from 15 states to hear presentations and discussions among a wide variety of experts, professionals, and other interested parties on the state of wetland conservation in Missouri and the challenges that lay ahead.
The result of a recommendation made by resolution from the Conservation Federation of Missouri, Wetland and Waterfowl Committee, the Summit was seen as an important step in determining the future of wetland conservation, restoration, and management in Missouri. https://www.confedmo.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Resolution-11-Support-for-MDC-Intensively-Managed-Wetlands.pdf
The Summit was focused on bringing a wide range of citizens and individuals from a wide range of backgrounds and interests in Wetlands. Attendees include state and federal agencies, non-governmental organizations, private citizens, wetland enthusiasts and much more.
The conference was kicked off by George Seek, Wetlands and Waterfowl Committee Chair, and Ken Babcock, a long-time wetlands and waterfowl professional, former MDC and DU employee, and member of the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation.
In his opening remarks, George told the crowd, “It does an old wetland biologist’s heart good to see so many folks interested in helping to shape the next chapter of what we like to refer as the Missouri model of wetland conservation.”
“The model is simple. Build effective, trustworthy relationships with your partners and stakeholders and good things will happen. But it takes dedicated leaders and resource professionals, as well as many engaged wetland advocates, at all levels, with a passion for advancing wetland conservation, to make the model work,” George continued. “Our challenge is to keep the Missouri model of wetland conservation going strong for the next 50 years.”
Mr. Babcock reminded us, “In Missouri, we have had the luxury of standing on the shoulders of giants as we looked toward the future – people like Crawford, Vaught, Milonski, and Fredrickson to name a few.”
It was through their vision and leadership Missouri became a leader in wetland conservation. Moving forward, we recognize an evolution and the rise of new challenges, and from this idea the Summit was created.
Over 30 presentations were delivered covering a large range of topics ranging from general wetland management, the science behind wetland conservation and restoration; impacts of climate change on bird migrations, precipitation, and flooding; the importance of wetlands to
water quality, federal programs, public-private partnerships, and the need for greater support and engagement of landowners, especially the agricultural community.
While historically the center of wetland conservation has been waterfowl focused, speakers and attendees alike agreed the time, need, and urgency for doing more has arrived.
During the first evening of the event at dinner, Mr. Leigh Fredrickson was recognized with an award for his outstanding lifetime for his dedicated service in Wetlands Science, Education, Partnerships & Management in Missouri and throughout North America. He addressed the crowd with many heartfelt stories, and words of encouragement to those in attendance. A huge congratulations and thank you to Leigh and his wife Judy for attending the Summit.
Also on hand at dinner was Tricia Burkhardt, Executive Director of the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation (MCHF) to talk about The Institute of Fisheries, Wetlands and Aquatic Systems. She explained that this Institute is a partnership with the Missouri Department of Conservation, the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation, the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources and its School of Natural Resources. It will be formed to advance sustainable management and conservation of fisheries, wetlands, and other aquatic systems.
Please join us as we celebrate an exciting new partnership with MDC and MCHF to advance sustainable management and conservation of fisheries, wetlands, and other aquatic systems.
“Wetland management decisions must consider much more than just waterfowl and hunting opportunities. We must consider all species of fish and wildlife along with a broad range of aquatic systems,” Ken explained. “It is more than providing a place to hunt ducks and geese. We must consider the needs of other groups like birders, or any who simply enjoy the special contact with nature that wetlands provide.”
A big theme through the Summit was how to best recognize, consider, and promote the many other benefits wetlands provide to a citizenry not always in tune with these needs. The future of the Missouri model must include the message that wetlands provide benefits for all people whether by reducing the impacts of floods, improving water quality, and or providing other ecological services.
“The essential leadership necessary to ensure that Missouri continues to set the bar high in wetlands conservation were in attendance,” said Ken Babcock. “This illustrates an unwavering level of commitment for addressing the challenges of the future, and I am confident Missouri will effectively rise to those challenges.”
“The summit served to demonstrate that the passion, interest, and professionalism for advancing wetland conservation in Missouri is alive and well,” said George Seek. “It also validated the role of CFM as a foundational piece of the Missouri Model of Conservation.”
“I truly believe that years from now we will look back on the 2023 Wetlands Summit as a great turning point in the future of wetland conservation in Missouri. We had so many knowledgeable individuals from many different backgrounds and generations come together to collaborate and advance this important and changing issue,” said CFM Executive Director Tyler Schwartze. “A huge thank you to all the volunteers, presenters, staff and all involved in making this historical event a huge success.”
The conference was, in many ways, a passing of the torch to the next generation of conservationists.
Watch for the September/October issue of the Conservation Federation magazine for more stories about the Summit and the future of wetland conservation in Missouri.
We thank the attendees for a tremendously successful summit, including the many sponsors who made it possible, including Ducks Unlimited, USDA, NRCS, Bass Pro Shops, Land Learning Foundation, Upper Mississippi/Great Lake Joint Venture, Missouri Bird Conservation Initiative, Forrest Keeling Nursery, The Bottoms Duck Camp, Massasauga Flats, LLC, Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation, Cattails Environmental, LLC.