News and Press
January 13, 2021
Members of the Watershed Committee of the Ozarks, Inc‘s Watershed Conservation Corps have been hard at work this week removing invasive species like bush honeysuckle and wintercreeper along the Wilson’s Creek Greenway Trail at Rutledge-Wilson Farm Park as part of James River Basin Partnership’s Wilson’s Creek 319 Grant. Not only does this help improve our riparian corridors, reduce erosion and stormwater runoff, but it also employs local youth & college students, giving them skills and qualifications for future work in natural resources. It’s a win-win for everyone! (JRBP Blog Post)
December 12, 2020
The Watershed Conservation Corps was proud to be a part of this tree planting project with James River Basin Partnership.
As a part of the “Wilson’s Creek 319 Project”, volunteers planted more than 400 trees along Wilson’s Creek on Saturday, Dec. 12.
September 9, 2020
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.
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
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
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
‘Learning About Careers in Conservation, Sustaining Habitats for Generations ‘
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.
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.
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
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
June 17, 2020, Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield Facebook Post Lone prairie