In 2019, the Missouri Invasive Plant Council (MoIP) established the Invasive Plant Action Award program to recognize the outstanding work being done in Missouri to control invasive plant species. The Action Awards celebrate exceptional effort and leadership in the field, and also serve as a way to demonstrate to the broader community how controlling the spread of invasive plants on Missouri farms, forests, woodlands, prairies, gardens, parks, neighborhoods, roadsides, and along waterways is very possible and very important land stewardship. Members of MoIP evaluate nominations and select winners yearly.
A big thank you to the Awards subgroup consisting of Carol Davit, Matt Arndt, Joe Alley, Malissa Briggler, Ann Koenig, Lauren Pile, and Bill Ruppert for their work on the awards program this year, and for selecting our 2021 winners.
The awards are split into four categories:
- Individual Citizen or Individual Organization
- Individual Professional
- Group Collaborators
Our 2021 MoIP Award Winners
Individual Organization: Watershed Conservation Corps
Awarded to a single entity that has demonstrated progress in reducing invasive plants over at least two years
“A mission-driven program that hires teams of young people to complete projects tackling invasive plant management via grants and cooperative agreements with partners throughout the Ozarks.”– nominator, Brendan Brothers
The Watershed Conservation Corps (WCC) is a pilot program of the Watershed Committee of the Ozarks. Based on the Youth Conservation Corps model, the WCC’s work focuses on invasive species removal and habitat restoration, while providing hands-on, environmental education opportunities for their crew members. The WCC is dedicated to engaging and employing young people, who can move forward into the field of conservation with “a passion for the work, a love of the environment, and knowledge they can share with their communities wherever they end up.” (Brendan Brothers)
The WCC’s first project was to restore the woodland, prairie, and glade habitats at Valley Water Mill Park in Springfield, Missouri. They have since gone on to form rewarding public and private partnerships: transforming the Bass Pro campus to 100% natives; removing invasives and restoring glades at Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield and George Washington Carver National Monument; rebuilding trails in Mark Twain National Forest; and even managing invasive species for the City of Springfield and other municipalities. Since 2018, with the help of many partners, they have expanded into dozens of projects throughout the Ozarks, and doubled the size of the conservation crew.
Importantly, the WCC’s partnership with the National Park Service is growing. With the success of projects at Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield and Buffalo National River, the WCC will be expanding its partnerships to work with all of the national parks in Arkansas, Missouri, and Kansas in 2022. This will create amazing opportunities for habitat restoration and for engaging and educating more young people in the fields of conservation and restoration.
Individual Professional – Linda Lehrbaum
Awarded to a natural resources professional who has demonstrated progress in reducing invasive plants over at least two years
“In the Kansas City Region, Linda Lehrbaum’s name is synonymous with outstanding land stewardship, including invasive plant removal.”– nominator, Kathy Gates.
For the last 19 years, Linda Lehrbaum has been the program manager of the Kansas City WildLands (“KC WildLands” with Bridging the Gap), an organization focused on restoring and protecting remnant, or relatively undisturbed, prairies, glades, savannahs, and forests.
Linda’s tireless work has been the driving force behind this inspirational wildland restoration program, which now stewards over 450 acres of land in the Kansas City area, and just as importantly, has recruited and educated more than 650 local and loyal volunteers who contribute over 2,000 volunteer hours annually.
“You can’t talk about invasive species, natural areas, or volunteering in the Kansas City region without talking about Linda Lehrbaum. Since the formation of KC Wildlands, Linda has had the unique ability to take any novice volunteer and have them remove invasive species for a day and leave the site with a deep understanding of the natural history of the park site.”– Matt Garrett, a Johnson County Park & Recreation District Field Biologist, in his support letter.
Linda organizes about 25 restoration work days annually but has also extended the reach of KC Wildlands by focusing on education and innovative public outreach. Linda began the Honeysuckle Academies, where public land managers, HOAs, and concerned citizens can learn about invasive species removal and land restoration. She runs the annual Cedar Tree Event (where the public can help remove invasive red cedars and take them home to decorate for the holidays!). Beyond eradication of invasives, Linda also involves KC WildLands volunteers, in restoration work, with her KC Wildlands Seed Team. These volunteers are trained to identify, collect, and process over 160 species of local eco-type seeds, which can then be planted in restorations on public lands. Linda’s ability to connect Kansas City conservation efforts with the Kansas City community is truly exemplary.
Earlier this year, Linda was featured in the Missouri Department of Conservation’s “Women in Conservation” exhibit in March. Beyond her work Managing KC WildLands, her exhaustive volunteer efforts (from the Missouri Stream Team #175, to the Kansas City Herpetological Society, to name a couple) make it clear how critically important she is to invasive species management and conservation of wild places in the Kansas City region. Linda’s leadership and tremendous educational efforts have benefitted not only hundreds of acres of wildlands, but also the lives of thousands of people.
Group Collaborators – Greenbelt Land Trust of Mid-Missouri
Awarded to a collaborative network working together to fight the spread of invasive plants in a particular geographic area
The mission of the Greenbelt Land Trust of Mid-Missouri is to conserve the streams, forests, grasslands, and farmlands that represent our distinctive landscape for present and future generations.
The Greenbelt Land Trust (GBLT) is a non-profit organization in Columbia that advocates for local land conservation through conservation easements, land donations, and providing stewardship of land trust properties. Their conservation work currently protects almost 700 acres, including four GBLT nature preserves and six private properties in Columbia.
A recent, large project exemplifies their outstanding work. In 2018, GBLT acquired 102 acres of forests, woodlands, a stream with cliffs, and prairie in northern Boone County (known as the Hundred Acre Woods Nature Preserve). The property included 40 acres of remnant prairie, but it had been degraded by woody invasives. Since then, GBLT has removed these invasives and reseeded 25 acres with locally collected native seeds. GBLT continues to clear invasives from the remaining 15 acres of the prairie to restore it, while continuing to protect the property’s many other natural amenities.
For nearly 30 years, the group has supported conservation with their vision of creating a network of “greenbelt” lands in and around Columbia. To meet these goals the GBLT has created a broad network of partners including the Alpine Shop of Columbia, Missouri Department of Conservation, the City of Columbia, Mid-Missouri Trout Unlimited, Poppy, Storage Mart, and PedNet Coalition. Their collaborative work with their partners and willing landowners has brought about multiple conservation easements and nature preserves. GBLT’s constant and outstanding efforts have led to exponential growth and awareness of conservation and invasive species control, making them, and their collaborative network, critically important in statewide conservation efforts.
“There are many individuals and groups carrying out impressive invasive species control in every part of the state,” says Carol Davit, chair of MoIP and executive director of the Missouri Prairie Foundation.
“MoIP recognizes those doing exemplary work via the Invasive Plant Action Awards program, and we especially enjoy honoring awardees by presenting awards at events of the awardees’ choosing, in front of their peers.”
By definition, invasive plants are those not native to a region whose abundance and/or rapid spread harm economic and environmental resources. For more information, please visit our MoIP Invasive Plant Action Awards page.
MoIP is a resource of the Grow Native! program and the Missouri Prairie Foundation.