Fountain Grove Conservation Area, in Linn and Livingston Counties, was the first waterfowl area developed by the Missouri Department of Conservation. The area is classified in Natural History as part of the Central Plains Natural Region composed of Bluestem prairie and Oak-history forest containing marsh and bottomland wetland tracts in addition to cropland, grassland, and old fields. The first 3,433 acres were purchased in 1947-48, followed by more land in subsequent decades, resulting in the 7,145 acres today. Three wetland units, largely marsh, totaling 2,000 acres were originally developed along the Grand River and served as the core management area for many years. Restoration plans and work have carefully addressed the aged wetland management structures, sedimentation resulting from upstream land use, and degradation of bottomland forests.
Marshes are composed of both seasonal and emergent wetlands. They are often found meandering throughout the state in conjunction with river floodplains, at upper ends of lakes and reservoirs, and in sloughs or other lowland areas. Seasonal wetlands often called "moist-soil wetlands" are shallow marsh areas that dry and flood annually. This moist soil environment is well suited to seed producing plants like smartweeds, millets, and annual grasses like Prairie Cord-grass. Over 150 species of birds use this habitat and it is especially attractive to migrating ducks and geese. Emergent wetlands are flooded through much of the growing season and contain vegetation that emerges above the water surface. These plants include perennial vegetation like cattails, rushes, and sedges. They also provide feeding, brood rearing, and resting habitat for a variety of birds as well as a wide range of other wildlife. Managed in conjunction with each other these two wetland types provide diverse habitat for many species of wildlife.
Marshes also provide a wide range of benefits to people as well as wildlife. As our rivers rise above and beyond their banks, adjacent lowlands become flooded. The occurrence of high water is followed by a slow release of floodwater, leaving behind rich alluvial soil. This rich nutrient influx provides, for example, the base for future plant production along with rich mixes of macro-invertebrate bugs; both favorite foods with different nutritional importance to both waterfowl and hundreds of other species of wildlife. Wetlands act as filters to keep our rivers clean and return purified water back to aquifers. When floodways are expanded by restoration of wetlands, these wetlands also help reduce the severity of downriver floods by storing and slowly releasing floodwaters back into the rivers.
Missourians have been most fortunate to achieve their key objectives of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan set forth in 1986. A partnership driven state wetland management plan has been fully realized, and Missouri now provides wetlands for peak waterfowl migrations reflective of the plentiful 1970s. Although waterfowl are the most visible reflection of Missouri's wetland conservation achievements, values reach far beyond a home for ducks and geese. These broader accomplishments, the full array of wetland types, wildlife, and environmental benefits, are also reflected in the achievements. 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 (at a minimum) 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.