The 26th annual Poosey Conservation Area Driving Tour drew a big crowd of visitors anxious to tour the 5,500-acre CA and observe Missouri's beautiful fall colors in the largest forest in Livingston County.

Visitors were permitted to drive on maintenance roads crisscrossing the area that are normally not open to the public, and learn about the fish, forestry and wildlife management practices exercised by the Missouri Department of Conservation, which this year is celebrating the 75th anniversary of creation of the Missouri Department of Conservation.

The number of tour visitors exceeded 1,000 for the third straight year (1,044 this year, down 12 from last year), as this annual tour has grown in popularity steadily throughout its 26 years of existence.

Missouri has a rich conservation history, starting back in a time when many of its outdoor resources had been nearly depleted through settlement and unchecked hunting and fishing, unregulated logging and burning of land. By the 1930s, most of stunning abundance and variety of fish, forests and wildlife found by Lewis and Clark on their journey through Missouri was gone and the existing Missouri Department of Game was poorly funded and weakened by politics.

These circumstances began to change in 1935 with a citizen-led effort to remove the state's conservation efforts from politics and provide better funding. The funding efforts resulted in a historic sales tax in the 1970s that helped Missouri to succeed in efforts to bring back much of the wildlife that was almost extirpated in the state, including deer, turkeys, geese, black bass and many others. At the present time, Missouri is widely recognized as having one of the nation's top conservation programs (many say it is the best in the country). Today, hunting, fishing and wildlife watching, along with forest industries, support about 95,000 Missouri jobs and generate more than $11.4 billion annually to state and local economies.

Driving Tour visitors were able to see the results of conservation management on the big Poosey area and were given a brochure to assist them with a self-guided tour. There were 14 designated stops along the way where the type of management was explained in the brochure. MDC staff was also present to answer any questions.

Stops included Pike's Lake (the oldest lake on the area) and fisheries management, ash trees ( presently threatened by a non-native insect called the Emerald Ash Borer), dead trees and their importance to wildlife management, a walnut plantation, a savanna and fire management, timber stand improvement, healthy waters, food plots, glade management, remnant prairie, timber harvest, understory thinning, and the historically famous Panther Den Hollow.

Evidence of this year's drought was apparent, as the many stream crossings on the trip revealed that the area's creeks were so dry that almost no water could be seen — very unusual for this area which has many natural springs.

The weather was perfect for the tour and the mid-way demo stop offered a welcomed break featuring MDC's latest movie and an opportunity to visit with Audubon Society representatives, there as they have been for all of the 26 years of this unique Driving Tour.

The forest floor was covered with fallen dry leaves, and coupled with the excessively dry weather, presented the possibility of a fire, but everyone was careful, and the fire trucks stationed at the demo stop were not necessary. They served as a reminder that MDC has cooperated with rural fire departments for many years by furnishing them with excess equipment to fight wildfires. The incidence of wildfires this year is much higher than usual due to the nationwide drought. This area, however, has pretty much been spared.

MDC expressed appreciation to all who toured the Poosey Conservation Area.

For information about managing your property to meet personal goals for conservation, contact the local MDC office. The Chillicothe MDC office can be reached at 646-6122. The office is located east of Chillicothe, across Highway 36 from the airport.