BARRY COUNTY, Mo. — A little more than 200 acres near Shell Knob have been purchased by the Conservation Fund and transferred to the U.S. Forest Service for protection, an act that is touted as enhancing public access to the Piney Creek Wilderness.
Located within the Mark Twain National Forest, the 229 acres purchased along County Road 2190 are billed as an ideal site for a new, safer trailhead and added parking for hikers, horseback riders, hunters, photographers, and other outdoor enthusiasts.
“With tourism a major source of revenue and jobs in the area, the newly protected land will improve the experience for visitors and local residents looking to enjoy the outdoors,” said Clint Miller, Midwest Project Director with The Conservation Fund. “We’re grateful to the U.S. Forest Service for their partnership in making this conservation effort a success, and we also thank Missouri’s U.S. Congressional delegation for their continued support of LWCF, which is so critical to conservation in Missouri and across the country.”
The Conservation Fund purchased the land in June 2017 and held it until federal funding through the Land and Water Conservation Fund became available, enabling the recent transfer to the U.S. Forest Service. Additional funding was provided by the Missouri-based L-A-D Foundation.
LWCF is a bipartisan, federal program that uses a percentage of proceeds from offshore oil and gas royalties—not taxpayer dollars—to acquire critical lands and protect our country’s best natural resources for more than 50 years. The project is specifically utilizing a portion of the U.S. Forest Service’s Recreational Access funding through LWCF, which was provided by the U.S. Congress’s FY 2017 omnibus spending bill for projects that meet key recreation needs.
The purchased land features a ridge-top field that provides one of the highest elevations in the area —1,382 feet — overlooking a wide portion of the southeast Wilderness and views of nearby Table Rock Lake. Bordered on two sides by the Piney Creek Wilderness, the acquisition secures the only remaining unprotected land with the South Piney Creek watershed, which should ensure lasting water quality protection for the creek as it flows to Table Rock Lake. Wildlife habitats for a variety of federally endangered, threatened and sensitive species, including the gray bat, northern long-eared bat, Eastern small-footed bat, shaved sedge and the bald eagle, have also been protected under the purchase.
“The Mark Twain National Forest is grateful for our continued successful partnership with The Conservation Fund over the years,” said Mark Twain National Forest Land and Special Use Program Manager, Janet Fraley. “This latest project makes economic and environmental sense for the neighboring communities around Shell Knob. We work hard to enhance and protect existing special areas in the forest for the benefit of the public. This project is a prime example.”