ROLLA, Mo. (Nov. 29, 2018) – Employees of the Eleven Point Ranger District of Mark Twain National Forest received the 2018 National Wild and Scenic Rivers (WSR) Award for Outstanding Wild and Scenic River Stewardship. The 2018 WSR awards recognized exemplary efforts to protect and enhance the free-flowing condition, water quality, and outstandingly remarkable values of the approximately 5,000 miles of wild and scenic rivers managed by the Forest Service. The award recipients were announced at the River Management Symposium in Vancouver, Washington on October 23, 2018. This symposium included attendees and presentations from a wide variety of organizations and disciplines, including Forest Service river managers, working together to protect rivers.
Receiving one of these awards is always a great honor; however, receiving it this year, as we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, makes this distinction even more exceptional.
“I believe that teamwork was the key to us receiving this recognition,” stated Ed Sherman, Zone Recreation Officer for the Eleven Point and Poplar Bluff Ranger Districts. Last month, an opening to attend the River Management Symposium occurred at the last minute, allowing him to attend. Sherman went to the meeting focused on the opportunity to learn from the diverse group of river managers sharing information about their efforts to preserve the wild qualities of the rivers they manage. But when awards were announced, he received a surprise!
“I was truly humbled when I was unexpectedly called up, in front of a group of respected peers from around the nation, and given the award,” stated Sherman. He attributes the award to the hard work of the Eleven Point Ranger District, the support of many other Forest Service employees from across Mark Twain National Forest and the Eastern Region, and to the local community members that worked side-by-side with the Forest Service to get recreation sites repaired and the river cleaned up. Bouncing back from the devastating, record-setting flood of 2017 took a lot of teamwork.
In the spring of 2017, parts of south-central Missouri, including the Mark Twain National Forest, experienced a 1,000 year rainfall event. At least 12 rivers exceeded their historical flood records, resulting in $58 million in public infrastructure damage as well as $28 million of damage or destruction to homes in the state of Missouri. In 96 years of record-keeping, the Eleven Point Wild & Scenic River floodwaters reached the highest point ever recorded, with the high-water mark 7 feet above the previous record and the volume of water 2.5 times the highest volume previously recorded. This massive quantity of fast-moving water created significant bank damage, undercut and moved boat ramps, destroyed road beds, uprooted trees, and deposited immense amounts of gravel and debris in the floodplain. After the waters receded, Eleven Point District staff began the arduous task of cleaning up and making the sites safe for the public to access the river. Restoring access to the river was an important and symbolic milestone for local communities who derive a sense of identity from being along one of the original wild and scenic rivers designated in 1968. Forest Service employees on the Eleven Point Ranger District tackled this overwhelming job even as their own homes, lives, and families were also impacted.
The Acting Deputy Chief of the Forest Service stated in the award letter, “They are true champions of the Eleven Point Wild & Scenic River, as shown by their outstanding dedication to restoring access as quickly as possible.”
Out of the destruction and recovery has come a closer bond between many people and organizations in the area. The partnerships that grew out of these efforts will be important in continuing to conserve the wild and scenic qualities of the Eleven Point River for future generations.