Missouri was once rich in bottomland forested wetland systems. They are often found meandering throughout the state in conjunction with River Wetlands, at upper ends of lakes and reservoirs, and in sloughs or other lowland areas. Sloughs are lowlands that are linked to or formerly part of a drainage, creek, or upper reach of a river or lake.
Forested wetlands provide foraging, loafing, resting, mating and nesting habitat for fish and wildlife, ducks in particular. Some of Missouri's most productive wetlands exist within the forested bottoms of our vast stretches of rivers and remnant sloughs.
Forested wetlands, like other wetland types, have been severely altered and/or destroyed by humans throughout our history. Many of the original forested wetlands that once existed are now gone. These wetlands were extensive and only a fraction now remains. In just the Southeast alone, some 2.4 million forested lowland wetland acres have been reduced to only 2% (less than 60,000 acres) of this habitat type.
Because forested wetlands are critical to the survival of so many species of wildlife, Ducks Unlimited has concentrated much of its resources in Missouri. The Mississippi Alluvial Valley and the Upper Mississippi River Initiatives are two major programs underway that address forested wetland habitat loss, decline, and the importance of this habitat type for waterfowl. Thus, many of the Ducks Unlimited projects exist along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers major tributaries.
Ducks Unlimited has coordinated its efforts in Missouri mainly through the "MARSH" program, which has been DU's flagship program to restore state habitat. DU also works in Missouri through an initiative called "RIVER CARE". This program is an aggressive plan to create a habitat corridor for migrating and wintering waterfowl in the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley. Through these programs Ducks Unlimited has approached wetland conservation in Missouri on four fronts:
- Working hand in hand with state and federal partners to impact the most important land and to get the most from every conservation dollar. DU has been able to leverage your donation 4:1 for every dollar contributed. Ducks Unlimited's most valued partner on public land, in Missouri, has been the Missouri Department of Conservation.
- Protecting what is left. Through conservation easements and other tools, DU is protecting important wildlife habitat forever.
- Restoring historic habitat by restoring wetlands that have been drained, enhancing wetlands that have been degraded, replanting hardwood forests, and habitat management assistance.
- Working with farmers and landowners to make their land more attractive to wildlife, DU works with both the Missouri Department of Conservation and the Natural Resource Conservation Agency to accomplish habitat work on private lands.