News and Press

September 9, 2020

Watershed Wednesday: Watershed Conservation Corps completes three month project at Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield to restore and protect the park’s natural and cultural resources.
The glade restoration project at Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield this summer has been, hands down, the most difficult work we have ever done. Despite this, our WCC crew (Hannah Stinnett, Trey Thompson, Dillan Simmons, Jeremy Graham, Adam Barton, Jeremiah Cline, Chyanne Bowen) worked with precision, tenacity, and fortitude—accomplishing more than the park and we thought possible.

Not only has the WCC restored over 40 acres of glade habitat this summer, areas that will be managed in perpetuity becoming a permanent feature of the park, but they have added an amazing project to a growing list of valuable experiences while gaining industry connections along the way.

This group is now moving on to Mark Twain National Forest to build over 1 mile of new trail; but, if you see them around, make sure and extend a congratulations on a job well done. Our organization is fortunate to have them.

Caleb Sanders, WCC Director

Seth Wheeler (with chainsaw)

July 30, 2020

Hey, so we’re happy to say that we now have a Certified Arborist in-house. Seth Wheeler, manager of the Watershed Conservation Corps, added an ISA cert to his growing list of professional certifications last week. The WCC is continuing to add to its portfolio of conservation services that it can offer to our partners and the people in our region. We are also now able to provide even better training, and more diverse projects, for our conservation corps employees.

Caleb Sanders, WCC Director
June 2020

Longer days, summer annuals, and the sounds of chainsaws in Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield are telltale signs of the Watershed Conservation Corps kicking off a program year. Our conservation work with the National

Park Service started in 2018 with a crew of five members working for three weeks. This has quickly grown to what we see today: a crew of nine employed nearly year around working in some of the most beautiful national parks the Ozarks has to offer.

Thanks to Heartland Inventory and Monitoring Network and other project partners, we have been able to increase employment opportunities and, furthermore, valuable experience in the field of natural resources for local youth. By monitoring and treating invasive species to promote native vegetation, members seek to improve the water resources of the greater Springfield area.

Caleb Sanders, WCC Director

Spring 2020 Newsletter Article

The Watershed Conservation Corps is getting ready for some exciting work this summer with the National Park Service. But, we’ve also been busy here in Springfield for the past four months too, with projects including planting 555 trees on a riparian buffer improvement project along the Sac river, a 25 acre riparian improvement project along Jordan Creek, a native tree planting with the City of Nixa, and numerous private landowner watershed improvement projects. The WCC is also preparing to begin work on several grant funded conservation projects including a continuation of the glade restoration work at Lake Springfield, and an 8 acre glade restoration project at Riverbluff Cave with Missouri Institute of Natural Science, Greene County, and the Missouri Department of Conservation.

While we did lose a few contracts due to the Covid pandemic, we have managed to continue strong during this challenging time, thanks to our partner’s support. If one thing is true, our area’s municipalities, state/federal land agencies, and residents are serious about conservation and work tirelessly to protect and invest in the future of our beautiful city and its water resources. We are honored to play a part in the incredible work they are doing.

One of the best parts of this  watershed work is engaging with the talented young people we get to hire and work with.  This year’s seasonal team brings a wealth of passion, experience and enthusiasm.  We welcome Chyanne Brown, Hannah Stinnett, Jeremiah Cline, Jeremy Graham, and Trey Thompson to join Dillan Simmons, Adam Bardon, Seth Wheeler and me.  Also, a special thank you to the Watershed staff and board for supporting this program and ultimately watershed health improvement.

Caleb Sanders, Watershed Conservation Corps Director

April 22, 2020

This 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, we share Watershed Conservation Corps Director, Caleb Sanders’ and Conservation Specialist Adam Barton’s interview with private-landowner, Dr. Bob Elworth. For over 30 years Dr. Elworth has been a steward of his Greene County property, transforming idle Fescue fields into what is now rich and diverse native prairie, benefiting wildlife and protecting and improving water quality.

December 2019 Excerpt from WCO 2019 Annual Report
One key to the success in the beginning was the interest and investment of Bass Pro Shops.  A leader for conservation on the local, state, and national level, Bass Pro offered the first year-round work for the WCC to work on native prairie reconstruction at their National Headquarters.  This  was a game-changer for the WCC. They allowed us to tie-in some nominal programmatic support into our crew-rate, which provided a foundation from which to build the program. From here, we were able to form a partnership with the National Park Service through the investment by our local conservation leaders Ted Hillmer, Mike DeBacker, and Craig Young. We then formed a rich partnership with Mark Twain National Forest through the concerted effort of Darla Rein and Jonathan Rhodes. Adding Missouri Department of Conservation into the mix, Ashley Schnake then helped our program to leverage work for our local partners in Springfield.

Caleb Sanders, WCC Director

 November 21, 2019 

‘Learning About Careers in Conservation, Sustaining Habitats for Generations ‘

For the second year in a row, we were honored to host students and teachers from the collaborative program, “Careers in Conservation”. On this particularly warm November day, students had the opportunity to gain insight from our staff about their respective paths into the field of land and water management, participate in our ongoing restoration efforts at Valley Water Mill Park, and learn about the current and historical conditions of Missouri habitats.

Much like the early settlers of the Ozarks might have done, students were given a unique task to repurpose felled cedar and other hardwoods, created from glade restoration and timber stand improvement efforts, into split rails to be used for protecting our most sensitive habitats and to create a saw log bench for the resting pleasures of park users. After a brief introduction, the enthusiastic group filled park with sharp sounds of heavy mallets (perhaps heavy enough to make even a lumberjack’s forearm tired) striking metal wedges to split cedar trees into rails. As one group of students and instructors methodically split rails, the other began construction on the saw log bench. Using hand saws, the groups diligently created the feet the bench would rest on.

The visit was capped off with an interpretive stroll through our park. On this Wednesday afternoon, the sun was shining, birds singing, and thoughtful dialog was shared among students, instructors, and Watershed Committee staff. While a wide range of thought-provoking topics were discussed regarding natural resources management, the common theme persisted to be our (human) historical and current influences on Missouri habitats.

In many ways, the history of land management in Missouri is also a history of human population and how local culture changed in passing time. In Native American cultures, fire was a tool used to maintain the open environments they utilized. Thanks to the accounts of some of the Ozark’s first European explorers, including folks like Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, we have insight into what our current closed-canopy forests looked like in the early 19th century; they describe a landscape of prairies, glades, oak savannahs and oak-pine forests shaped by fire. Today, the role that fire plays in oak forests has been greatly reduced. Instead, prescribed fire, a management tool used to mimic the disturbance of wildfire, is used to in our wildlands to foster wildlife habit, plant diversity, restore glades and prairies, and even increase timber production. Timber stand improvement efforts reduce canopy cover and allow more sunlight to reach the forest floor which helps to create a more favorable environment for a safe and effective prescribed burn. Together, timber stand improvement and prescribed fire will help us to reach our management goals, goals only possible with the generous help of groups like Careers in Conservation, within the appropriate parts of the park.

As a member of a community tasked with shaping a land ethic for the 21st century and beyond, it brings me great joy to see programs such as Careers in Conservation provide young people in Springfield the opportunity to experience unique land management opportunities. After all, experiencing the outdoors is the first step in fostering a deep love for the habitats that we so are lucky to call home.
-Seth Wheeler, Watershed Conservation Corps Program Manager
October 18, 2019

Exactly one month ago today, we no-till drilled spring oats into a 1.3 acre plot near the south pond on Bass Pro Shops Base Camp property. The oats germinated only four days after drilling and have thrived so far due to the intermittent rainfall that has occurred over the region. The mild end of September and warm beginning of October was beneficial as well. The cover crop has grown steadily and mpletely covers the soil surface in some areas of the plot.

The bottom photo was taken this past Tuesday morning and it is easy to cosee the difference between now and only a month ago. The best part about the oats is that they will “winterkill” themselves (plant will terminate when the ambient temperature falls below 32 degrees for extended temporal periods) while its residue sticks around. The residue provides numerous benefits, including increased soil biota activity, invasive species control, and improving overall soil health. This is just the beginning of the project, but I think it is wonderful to the fruits of our labor paying off.
Adam Barton
Conservation Specialist
Watershed Conservation Corps

Fall 2019 Newsletter Article

The Watershed Conservation Corps has had a busy and successful season! From 10 acres of glade restoration at Lake Springfield Park to boardwalk construction at George Washington Carver National Monument, 11 young adults successfully completed 14 watershed improvement projects in Springfield and across the Ozarks. More recently, our Corps has continued our work to improve erosion-prone sections of the North Fork Trail on Mark Twain National Forest. Asked to serve as the lead trail consultants, the WCC led Conservative Anabaptist Service program members (CASP) in a .35 mile re-route on the Ridge Runner Trail at Lake Noblett in October and November.  CASP provides alternative places of employment that are approved by the U.S. Selective Service System. Each year, volunteer men work on several pilot projects just as if there were a draft. Apart from giving Anabaptist young men an alternative to war, these rebuilding and forestry projects are meant to serve as infrastructure development for rural parts of the Midwest. We were honored to have the opportunity to work with these hard-working young men.

Caleb Sanders, WCC Director

September 4, 2019

Water Wednesday ‘Cover Crops’
Did you know that you can improve the health of your soil and water after the first frost? Did you know that you can protect your soil form erosion during the icy, frigid winter? If you answered “NO”, to any of the questions above, I have some news for you. Cover crops are here to save the day!
Cover crops are a great strategy to employ on grassland areas that are at risk for erosion and invasive species establishment. These “offseason” grasses/legume species can reduce soil erosion, runoff, and nutrient leaching. Cover crops help aerate the soil, which allows increased water infiltration rates and lowered amounts of soil displaced by raindrop splash.

A cover crop is generally planted immediately following the growing season. The months of September and October offer prime conditions for sowing seed since average soil temperatures across the region are cooling to a level comfortable for seed germination. The grass grows during the fall, protecting the soil and providing a late season forage for livestock users. An added benefit for cover crops is that the presence of cover in the early stages of the following growing season can significantly reduce the amount of resources available for invasive species.
We are currently in the initial stages of developing native grassland prairies at several properties that have become dominated by invasive species such as johnsongrass, crown vetch, bush honeysuckle, and many more species. The plan for these properties is to drill Spring oats into the soil later this month to help establish native grasses for the 2020 growing season. The germinated oats will provide a blanket of foliage across the site to protect the soil surface during the winter.
Immediately prior to seeding the site with little bluestem and other native grasses in early 2020, an application of a water-safe, non-selective herbicide will be used to terminate the cover crop. This application will allocate the appropriate resources available for native grass establishment. Once the warm-season grasses are established, native forbs and wildflower species will be seeded to fully stock the native grassland prairie in early 2021. Constant invasive species removal and plant monitoring will maintain the desired habitat for years to come.
Adam Barton
Conservation Specialist
Watershed Conservation Corps
August 7, 2019
It’s been a very successful summer for the Watershed Conservation Corps. Ten Crew Members and two Crew Leaders have worked 40 hours a week for the past 12 weeks on projects throughout southwest Missouri. Our Local Crew completed a boardwalk renovation at George Washington Carver National Monument, a 4-week glade restoration at Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield, and habitat improvement projects at locations across Springfield. The News Leader highlighted the work our local crew has done; so, I’d like to take the opportunity to talk some about our Trail Crew.
Our Mark Twain National Forest Trail Crew has bench-cut over 2.60 miles of new trail, including 7 switchbacks, through steep slopes and rocky terrain in the backcountry of Mark Twain National Forest. I mean, imagine moving soil and rocks for 10 hours a day, four days a week, in the middle of July. To say that it’s hard work is an absolute understatement. You’ve got to deal with constant ticks, mosquitoes, 2 thousand-pound boulders, frequent hornet nests, smelly feet, smelly gloves, sweat, no bathrooms, close living quarters, muscle sprains, and more smelly feet. And yet, despite all the inherent difficulty, this team came together in a way that is almost impossible to describe.
To best capture the nature of the camaraderie you will find within this team it may be necessary to venture into the realm of science fiction—Power Rangers or something like that. Not that, individually, they possess superhuman strength, but collectively they come together in such a way as to exceed what should be possible considering their respective individual ability. It’s a unit to say the least—the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. But the parts are important.
Kathryn Krydynski (to the crew she is better known as exKATvator, for her uncanny ability to move literal boulders), the Crew Leader offered incredible leadership, strength, and confidence—without which this project would have never been possible.
Hannah Whaley, a second year WCC Alum, brought a rare blend of work-ethic, kindness, and plant I.D. skills that would make even Leopold blush.
Amy Greene, the de facto leader when Kat was out of the field, was indispensable on the trail and at the house—she could be trusted to oversee anything and possibly cut down more trees than anyone in the world this year (it was necessary). Then we have
Brooke Benz, for whom all things were a potential source of joy. She was a team advocate and just a downright good person—her hard work superseded only by her knowledge of rocks. And, finally, Jeremy Graham (better known as Alpha Gal for, well, reasons). In all my years of working on and managing trail teams, Jeremy is one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met. Give him a mini-mattock (and perhaps some questionable music) and he won’t stop until the day is done. I’d venture that he bench-cut 3/4th of the entire reroutes this summer.
These are impressive people to say the least, but to watch them work together was like nothing I’ve seen before—seamless, no drama, mutual respect for each other and the project. Again, a Megazord. It’s been incredibly hard work, certainly, but I dont think we would have done it differently. Seeing this team accomplish what they did has been one of the highlights of the past few years of my life. I take solace and joy in the fact that people can still come together and accomplish seemingly impossible things, together. The WCC is doing things. Thank you Mark Twain National Forest Trail Crew.
-Caleb
Watershed Conservation Corps Program Director

Summer 2019

In the second year of the program, the Watershed Conservation Corps (WCC) made significant contributions to the health of our region’s watersheds. More than doubling its size from 2018, the WCC was able to expand upon its mission to employ young people in hands-on improvement of the land. Ten crew members and two crew leaders collaborated with multiple project partners and worked 40 hours a week for 12 weeks on various projects throughout southwest Missouri. The two crews worked tirelessly to either complete or continue the following projects: trail reconstruction in the Mark Twain National Forest, boardwalk renovation at George Washington Carver National Monument, glade restoration at Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield and Springfield Lake, and habitat improvement projects for Bass Pro Shops and the Springfield Discovery Center. While working on these projects, the WCC provided a strong educational component for crew members focusing on Missouri Ecology, safety, and career building skills. By combining these projects with education, the WCC continues to shape their own Land Ethic while they shape the physical and cultural landscapes around them.

Seth Wheeler, Watershed Conservation Corps Program Manager

December 2018 WCO 2018 Annual Report

In 2018 WCO piloted an exciting new program “to engage and employ young people in hands-on watershed improvement” called the Watershed Conservation Corps (WCC). The WCC provides a strong educational component for crew members, focusing on Missouri ecology, safety, and building career skills. The program fulfills a need for ecological/watershed restoration. The fees for services provided to public and private clients will cover the operational costs of the program.

In the first year of the program, the WCC made significant contributions to the health of our local watershed by making improvements to the land. In 2018 the WCC restored glades at Valley Water Mill Park, Lake Springfield Park, Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield, George Washington Carver National Monument, and private residences in Springfield, Missouri. As we work to restore this threatened natural community, we expect to see an improvement of water quality in these areas. This is because the shallow soil of glades are highly susceptible to erosion. Erosion is the number one pollutant of waterways. As the health of our glades increase, so too does our water. Another way the Watershed Conservation Corps helps to improve our watershed is through the removal of invasive plants. These plants include Bush Honeysuckle, Privet, and Burning Bush which have shallow root systems that increase the rate of erosion and rapidly out-compete native vegetation. Invasive plant removal and native plant installations are a part of our ongoing project with Bass Pro at their Base Camp Corporate Headquarters. Bass Pro has contracted the Corps with the intention of having an entirely native landscape at their headquarters! The native trees, shrubs, and grasses we install will act as a pollution sponge, cleaning our groundwater, as the robust native root systems take in polluted water.

In 2019, we will continue these efforts with the addition of trail reconstruction for erosion mitigation for a sensitive watershed in Mark Twain National Forest. We will also be installing native plant for the Springfield Discovery Center, made possible through Missouri Department of Conservation’s Community Conservation Grant.

Kathryn Krydynski, Watershed Conservation Corps

Recent Press

June 17, 2020, Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield Facebook Post  Lone prairie

Crews from Watershed Conservation Corps and Conservations Corps of Minnesota and Iowa are doing conservation work at the park. Led by the Heartland Inventory and Monitoring Network, the crews are spot spraying to reduce invasive/exotic plants and allow native plants to thrive. The team recently worked on Bloody Hill prairie, one of the few bits of “remnant prairie” left in Missouri.
“Today, less than one half of 1 percent of Missouri’s original prairie remains. Still, wildlife and people depend on it for so much.” (Missouri Dept. of Conservation) To learn more about nature at the park, visit Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield website: https://www.nps.gov/wicr/learn/nature/index.htm