For the first time since 2019, the rangers and natural resource specialists from all 18 Kansas City District lake projects and the Kansas City District Headquarters management were able to gather in person for the annual Natural Resource Management Workshop in Bolivar, Missouri.
The Kansas City District has lake and river projects in four states: Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa. With such a widespread area of responsibility, it is not always easy for park managers and rangers to meet one another. This four-day annual workshop allowed for the rangers to have their required continuing education on natural resource management, visitor assistance, visit projects close to the workshop and network with other rangers.
“It’s a break from the normal schedule and is a great way to get good information to the younger rangers just starting out,” said Glenn Locke, natural resource manager, Pomme de Terre Project.
While the first two days were inside a classroom, the last two were spent touring Stockton and Pomme de Terre projects to learn more about how they operate. A long train of park ranger trucks could be seen by passersby as the procession made its way between the projects’ sites.
The first stop on the tour of Stockton was to Sand Mountain to discuss and show how prescribed fires have increased the conservation efforts at the project. Kyle Hedges, Missouri Department of Conservation, district supervisor, discussed the best practices for prescribed fires. Then, he was able to show fields within Sand Mountain where prescribed fires were used to achieve management goals for wildlife and invasive species control.
A highlight of the tour of the Stockton project was the powerhouse, the hydropower portion of the Stockton Dam. The group was able to tour and learn powerhouse operations and how the operators work with partners at Truman Lake to provide power to local communities. Besides providing power, the Stockton Powerhouse can aid in voltage control by switching from generating power to condensing, depending on the need.
“I like being able to talk to everyone and get to know them. It makes it easier to reach out to others to learn more about their management practices,” said Erin Cordrey, natural resource specialist, Truman Lake.
Socials are planned each night for rangers to become acquainted with one another better and interact outside of the workplace. From game night at the hotel, bowling and dinners together, the closeness among the team could be seen growing each day.
“Having the workshop helps to know new faces and personalities. Tone can be lost within emails, and this helps to connect beyond a computer,” said Melissa Bean, natural resources management specialist, Kansas City District.
Understanding messaging and tone is important since the projects are spread out. The district’s outlying lakes include Rathbun Lake in Iowa and Harlan County Lake in Nebraska.
“It’s my first time at one of these and I like being able to meet the other rangers,” said Ryan Vogt, natural resources specialist, Rathbun Lake.
The last day of the workshop was spent touring Pomme de Terre Lake. Rangers were able to showcase a regenerative agriculture method they use, dubbed the buffalo method, which uses a crimper attachment to a tractor. This no-till system somewhat mimics how the buffalo would trample plants while traveling through fields allowing for organic breakdown and improvement of the soil’s health.
A unique feature of Pomme de Terre Lake is that while its surrounding land is owned by USACE, the amount of land owned by USACE is significantly less than most lake projects. This allows for more private development near the lakeshore and presents unique management challenges some staff may not have experience with. A main management challenge discussed was how different projects permit the use of public docks.
“Having this workshop allows for those side conversations and to learn what the other projects are doing to compare and even learn from their experiences,” Angelia Lentz, natural resource specialist, Tuttle Creek Lake said.
While planning is already underway for next year’s workshop, Stockton and Pomme de Terre Lakes deserve a big thank you for providing tours throughout their projects and being wonderful hosts.