Federal grant could aid Mississippi River island purchase

Friday, April 24, 2009 ~ Updated 3:54 PM
File Photo by Kit Doyle Members of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, The Nature Conservancy and the Corps of Engineers view the Marquette Island on the Mississippi River south of Cape Girardeau on Wednesday, June 20, 2007, during the River Resources Action Team Environmental Coordination Trip hosted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will provide nearly $250,000 to the Missouri Department of Conservation to support the purchase of a Mississippi River island just downstream from Cape Girardeau.

The grant, under the Recovery Land Acquisition program, will support plans to place the environmentally important Marquette Island in public hands and protect habitats for endangered least tern, pallid sturgeon and Indiana bats.

The property is 835 acres of sand and woodland. The acquisition lies within the Cape Hills Conservation Opportunity Area and was identified a few years ago as a prime target for acquisition by the Middle Mississipi River Partnership, a coalition of 16 public and private agencies working to promote the environmental health of the river.

The grant announced this week, however, is only one-third of the amount requested and makes a decision on moving forward difficult, said Peggy Horner, a wildlife manager for the conservation department.

"Because it is not full funding, we may not accept the funding at all," Horner said. "We don't know the specifics at this time."

In all the partnership identified seven islands from Cape Girardeau County to the Arkansas state line as envrionmentally or historically important. The islands are being purchased through a public-private partnership, with the American Land Conservancy taking the lead to purchase property from private owners and selling it to the government as appropriations become available.

For more information, check back at semissourian.com or read Saturday's Southeast Missourian.

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