Conservation and Natural Resource Management

About

As an Emergency Response Team (ERT), our first priority is responding to natural disasters. Natural disasters are not constant. Serving the environment and ensuring healthy and sustainable ecosystems can grow is a way we can try and help prepare for and prevent disasters when we are not actively responding.

The preservation of our country’s natural resources and national parks is an important aspect of ERT. We serve on various conservation projects in Missouri, Illinois, and Montana. We partner with the U.S. Forest Service, the Missouri Department of Conservation, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the National Parks Service, and local agencies. These environmental stewardship projects include exotic invasive species removal, trail construction, trail maintenance, bridge construction, preserving wilderness areas, maintaining and rehabbing recreational areas, prescribed burns, planting trees and wild land fire suppression.

Trail Maintenance

Photo by Sean Kerr

Photo by Sean Kerr

Maintaining trails in national and state parks is important because it keeps trails and paths safe for hikers of every experience level. Trail maintenance can mean anything from cutting up a fallen tree across the trail to creating a new section of trail to work around erosion. Clearing any dead trees (snags) around trails is of particular importance. Snags are a hazard to any hikers or park employees traveling along or near the trail. Mitigating these hazard trees, whether by felling or prescribed burning, is a frequent project of ERT. In addition, clearing trails and trailheads allows for better and easier access for the public. If trails are safer and more accessible, more people will come to experience our amazing national and state parks.

Invasive Species

Photo by Kelley Hower

Photo by Kelley Hower

A large part of the ERT conservation effort involves the removal of invasive plant species, both native and exotic. Invasive species have become a huge problem in many Missouri parks, with plants like bush honeysuckle, autumn oil, and teasel taking over large sections of the parks and preventing native plants from growing. ERT often spends a huge amount of time cutting and burning cedar trees – cedars are a native plant to Missouri but are also invasive and will spread all over a forest or glade, soaking up all of the earth’s nutrients and resources and ultimately disrupting the natural habitats.

Habitat Restoration

Photo by Sean Kerr

Photo by Sean Kerr

Many Missouri parks are continually trying to restore natural habitats within the parks that have been affected by things like invasive species, human impact, general overgrowth, and erosion.  ERT helps with various restoration projects, such as clearing overgrown areas, preparing areas for prescribed burning, cutting down and burning cedar trees, and transplanting grasses. Countless glades, woodlands, wetlands, and other types of habitats have been restored to their original state. The process is ongoing and requires constant upkeep.

Special Projects

Cave Gating

Photo by Kelley Hower

Photo by Kelley Hower

One of the more unique conservation projects ERT has embarked on in recent years is building “bat friendly” steel gates across cave entrances to help protect the local bat habitat. This project has become especially important due to the rapid spread of a fungus causing White Nose Syndrome, a deadly human-introduced virus that is threatening the survival of bat populations around Missouri and Illinois. The steel gates allow the bats to travel in and out of the caves safely while preventing human access as human are carriers of the virus.  Working closely with the Missouri Department of Conservation, the US Forest Service, and the Cave Research Foundation, our teams have helped build the actual gates and construct access trails.

Marked Wilderness

Photo by Sean Kerr

Photo by Sean Kerr

Wilderness, as defined by the Wilderness Act of 1964, is untrammeled, undeveloped, and natural, and offers people opportunities for solitude and primitive recreation. The National Wildlife Refuge System manages these areas to assure an enduring resource of wilderness and to preserve wilderness character. Some wilderness areas have small trails or marked paths that help people experience the wilderness more safely – that’s where ERT comes in. ERT helps maintain the trails through designated wilderness areas in national forests throughout Missouri and Illinois in the Shawnee and Mark Twain National Forests as well as the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest in Montana. In order to do any maintenance work in these areas, we cannot use any power tools – we must use other more primitive tools, such as a crosscut saw or hand saws, that leave less of an impact on the native environment. The point is to make it look like we were never there.

What You’ll Learn

As an ERT Member, you could have the opportunity to receive the following trainings:

More Information

U.S. Forest Service

Missouri Department of Conservation

Missouri Department of Natural Resources

National Parks Service