By Andy Ostmeyer
LOCKWOOD, Mo. — Mike Theurer remembers that when he was a youngster, prairie chickens were abundant on the native grasslands around the family farm.
“I know there was 100 within three or four miles,” he said, describing several populations. “I’m pretty sure there was 50 by my house in the 1960s.
“I am going to say that 10 years ago, there were 30. Four or five years ago, I’ll say, there were 20,” said Theurer, who is now 59.
So far, he’s seen fewer than a dozen this year.
His observation is borne out by state studies of the greater prairie chicken in Missouri that show the birds are declining steadily.
“There were around 3,000 birds in the late 1980s; there were about 1,000 in the 1990s,” said Max Alleger, leader of the prairie chicken recovery effort for the Missouri Department of Conservation.
Statewide, the estimate is now around 400 to 500 birds, he said.
“They are continuing to decline at a rapid rate,” Alleger said. “We are probably within a decade of losing the birds if we don’t take ... action.”
As one of those steps, Alleger and others are promoting a new state-federal program that will compensate landowners who set aside cropland to develop habitat for prairie chickens.
The initiative is similar to other U.S. Department of Agriculture set-aside programs that pay farmers not to plant crops on lands that are highly erodible, or that could serve as a buffer for streams or as wildlife habitat. That program, Alleger said, was expanded last year to include prairie chicken restoration efforts in Missouri and in other states.
The government payments, over a 15-year contract, would come just as farmers are negotiating operating loans for next spring’s planting, said Joe Horner, a University of Missouri Extension economist. Sign-ups are through local USDA Farm Service Agency offices.
By Andy Ostmeyer
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Former Webb City teacher charged with sexual contact with student
A former Webb City High School choir teacher was charged Tuesday in Jasper County Circuit Court with having sexual contact with a student. According to a probable-cause statement, Carrie Njoroge, 30, of Oronogo, had consensual sexual intercourse with an 18-year-old male student in her office at Webb City High School during the evening hours of April 15.
Carthage Council reorganizes
The Carthage City Council has one new member after Paul McCoy was sworn in Tuesday as 2nd Ward councilman. Oaths of office also were repeated by Mayor Mike Harris, and Councilmen Lee Carlson, Jason Shelfer, Kirby Newport and Brady Beckham, all re-elected in city balloting on April 8. Councilman Dan Rife was re-elected as mayor pro tem.
New Powell bridge to open today
Great River Associates engineer Spencer Jones, of Springfield, is planning a final inspection of the new Powell bridge on Cowan Road off Route E, to be followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 3 p.m. today. The initial cost for the bridge was put at $800,000.
Mike Pound: Spring a great time to visit Carver monument
It occurred to me when the woman passed me — for the second time — as I ambled along the walking trail at George Washington Carver National Monument that perhaps I should step up the pace of my amble. The only problem is, the walking trail at the monument isn’t a place that necessarily inspires a stepped-up amble. To me, the Carver monument is a place to linger.
Season opens Friday for Carthage Art Walk
Art, music and other activities are scheduled Friday when a new season of the Carthage Art Walk opens on the courthouse square. Displays and programs set for 6 to 9 p.m. will showcase galleries, artists, restaurants and shops. Special events will feature a timed painting and a demonstration of an 1896 printing press.
Missouri lawmakers file three resolutions calling for impeaching governor
While Gov. Jay Nixon was in Nevada, Mo., on Wednesday, a Missouri House panel led by Republicans began hearing arguments on three measures calling for impeaching him. Nixon has downplayed the proceedings as a legislative “publicity stunt.” One resolution, sponsored by Rep. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove, is critical of Nixon for waiting several months to call special elections to fill three vacated House seats.
SLIDE SHOW: Moving day for biology and chemistry building at Pittsburg State
They didn’t all go two-by-two, and the person in charge wasn’t named Noah, but nonetheless, critters of all shapes and sizes were on the move Wednesday. Students, volunteers and staff members helped Delia Lister, director of Nature Reach, relocate everything from a pair of prairie dogs to a vocal macaw named Charlie so that Heckert-Wells Hall — the biology and chemistry building where they are housed on the campus of Pittsburg State University — can undergo a $4.4 million transformation in the coming months.
Joplin pays it forward with flowers; residents asked to return bulbs ‘fostered’ for other towns
Suzan Morang’s front yard bloomed brightly last year from a colorful array of bulbs that she will happily pass on to someone else this year. Morang, 1207 Xenia Court, is a participant in America Responds With Love, a national nonprofit organization that distributes bulbs to disaster-stricken cities.
3M plant expansion to create 22 jobs
An $18.7 million expansion at the 3M Co. manufacturing plant in Nevada will create 22 new jobs, a company official said Wednesday. “We started 43 years ago as a small manufacturer,” said Todd Cantrell, plant manager, in a meeting with employees. “We are now the largest 3M plant in the state of Missouri and one of the largest of all 3M plants.”
Nixon: Tax-cut bill holds fatal flaw; area lawmakers say stance totally false
Another year has brought yet another tax-cut fight between Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon and the Republican-led Missouri General Assembly, and on Tuesday, Nixon announced that he had found what he sees as a fatal flaw.
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