17 December 2009

Purchase of St. Helena Island to Benefit Many Species

A key tract of land recently purchased by the Corps of Engineers will provide multiple benefits for a variety of flora and fauna along the Missouri National Recreation River along Nebraska's northeast boundary.

The St. Helena Island tract - comprising 2400 acres and seven miles of river frontage - was purchased in July by the Conservation Fund, with ownership transferred to the Corps in November.

The tract was purchased for $10.6 million, according to Mike George, a program manager with the Corps. This is a bit more than $4400 per acre.

This is the first tract of Missouri River property purchased through a cooperative effort with a land trust, and was "a real successful partnership," George said.

The property consists of cottonwood and cedar forest, grassland and cropland. It sits between the Missouri River and a steep bluff and may have been host to an Omaha Indian village in the early 1800s, according to information from the Conservation Fund.

Several prominent features make this an especially important purchase, George said. These include:

1) The property is adjacent to three islands where Least Terns and Piping Plovers nest. Ownership will protect the river bank, and prevent and development adjacent to the habitat of these threatened and endangered species.
2) Their property was historically an island, so the former riverside oxbow and chute setting provide an opportunity for recreating shallow water habitat, which would be beneficial for the endangered Pallid Sturgeon.
3) The riverine cottonwood forest will be conserved for use by Bald Eagles, and a wide variety of other bird species, including neotropic migrants.
4) This tract had been identified as a priority acquisition by the National Park Service due to its visual aesthetics and the extent of forest present.

Area map of the St. Helena Island tract.
Image courtesy of the Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District Office.

In the next few months, a group will be established to make management decisions for the property, said George. Representatives from the National Park Service (which oversees management of the Missouri National Recreation River), the state of Nebraska, the area natural resources district, and local/county agencies are expected to be involved. The group will prepare a master plan for the site which will maximize the benefits which can be derived from the site's ecosystem.

St. Helena Island is expected to be open for public use in the autumn of 2010, as the current landowner will be growing crops for one additional season.

Historic view of the St. Helena Island area. From the 1893 Missouri River Commission map.

An area map and related information will be provided on the Corps' website in coming months, to help the public get further information.

Birder's can readily assist with the management of the property by conducting bird surveys to help site managers realize what species are present, which could be helpful in determining management efforts to improve habitat.

In the immediate vicinity in September 1806, the journals of the Lewis and Clark expedition mention the Wild Turkey and Greater Prairie-Chicken. In May 1834, Prince Maximilian noted the Whip-poor-will and White-throated Sparrow during his boat travels down the river.

Some species known to occur - based on a survey more than 25 years ago at St. Helena Bend - include the American Goldfinch, Baltimore Oriole, Bell's Vireo, Belted Kingfisher, Brown Thrasher, Brown-headed Cowbird, Eastern Kingbird, Gray Catbird, Mourning Dove, Orchard Oriole, Ring-necked Pheasant, Song Sparrow and Yellow Warbler.

Funding for the acquisition was included in the Fiscal Year 2010 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act, which was recently approved by Congress and provides funding for Corps' programs, including the Missouri River Mitigation Program, through which this property was purchased.


viagra without prescription said...

Very good information I think we should to preserve all the species in the world an more because they're endangered, I want to getting into a program to preserve flora and fauna.m10m

xlpharmacy said...

This place will be the home of thousand birds! I'm very proud about this initiative!

Post a Comment